A well-meaning but only partially successful series opener.

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LITTLE CLAWS

From the Animal Rescue Agency series , Vol. 1

The Animal Rescue Agency, helmed by fox Esquire and rooster Mr. Pepper, saves a stranded polar bear cub.

Mother polar bear Big Claws and her baby, Little Claws, emerge from hibernation only to have Little Claws fall into a trap that leaves him stranded on an ice floe. Big Claws’ message for help sets Esquire and Mr. Pepper into action. They hop on a train to Anchorage, then dog-sled to Utqiagvik, Alaska, as the story plunges them into intrigue and action, working against an openly evil wild-animal trafficker. Although the action maintains a steady pace—with captures and escapes aplenty—certain plot elements fall apart under scrutiny. Instead, the focus is on the duo’s dynamic, crotchety and full of good-natured insults. Esquire’s dashing and flashy—down to her fashion statements—while business-minded Mr. Pepper tends toward the practical. Utqiagvik’s description isn’t exactly flattering, even given the vulpine perspective, and readers looking for Alaskan Native representation there will be disappointed. The villain is the only human character, described as “gray” but presenting White and looking like a fur hat–wearing Capt. Hook in the cartoon art. Backmatter includes information on how climate change threatens polar bears, along with Mr. Pepper’s recipe for mushroom jerky (a favorite of Esquire’s, who’s sworn off eating animals). Esquire, unlike the other animals, is highly anthropomorphized in the art, mostly going about on two feet. Only she and Mr. Pepper wear clothing.

A well-meaning but only partially successful series opener. (Animal fantasy. 8-12.)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-298233-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders.

TIGER BOY

When a Bengali boy finds and saves a tiger cub from a man who wants to sell her on the black market, he realizes that the schoolwork he resents could lead to a career protecting his beloved Sunderbans island home.

When the not-yet-weaned cub escapes from a nearby reserve, Neel and many of his neighbors join the search. But some are in the pay of greedy Gupta, a shady entrepreneur who’s recently settled in their community. Even Neel’s father is tempted by Gupta’s money, although he knows that Gupta doesn’t plan to take the cub back to the refuge. Neel and his sister use the boy’s extensive knowledge of the island’s swampy interior to find the cub’s hiding place and lure it out so it can be returned to its mother. The Kolkota-born author visited the remote Sunderbans in the course of her research. She lovingly depicts this beautiful tropical forest in the context of Neel’s efforts to find the cub and his reluctance to leave his familiar world. While the conflicts resolve a bit too easily, the sense of place is strong and the tiger cub’s rescue very satisfying. Pastel illustrations will help readers envision the story.

A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders. (author's note, organizations, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-660-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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