An empathetic story told in a fun, lighthearted way.

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WEBSTER

TALE OF AN OUTLAW

An abused dog with attitude problems finds a home in this middle-grade novel.

Webster, aka “Beast,” a black Lab mix, has led a lonely and tumultuous life. After three unsuccessful adoptions, he winds up at the Green Meadows Rescue Group. Unwilling to trust anyone, Webster hunkers down in his kennel and plans his escape. White’s too-cool-for-school third-person narrative voice captures Webster’s lonely-but-tough-guy attitude, although its predominance occasionally wears. The friendliness of the shelter cats and dogs throws a wrench in Webster’s plan to be a Bad Hat—a loner and ne’er-do-well—but he keeps up (with difficulty) his defenses, and when the opportunity arises, he escapes—although with misgivings. His adventures are not what he planned, however. Instead of wreaking havoc in high, Bad Hat style, Webster finds himself rescuing a drowning man, saving a toddler from getting run over, and shepherding six abandoned kittens to the safety of the shelter. Eventually, Webster learns to trust again as he realizes that the shelter is filled with friends who care about him. While it’s a familiar-enough theme, the storyline is enhanced by White’s quirky details (the cats and dogs at the shelter steal out of their kennels at night and watch Downton Abbey together on PBS), and there is some truly funny dialogue between the animals.

An empathetic story told in a fun, lighthearted way. (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2201-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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