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LITTLE CLAWS

From the Animal Rescue Agency series , Vol. 1

A well-meaning but only partially successful series opener.

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. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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THE WILD ROBOT PROTECTS

From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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THE ONE AND ONLY FAMILY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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