A compelling and unusual look at a complex and intractable problem that succeeds admirably as story as well.

THE BULLY BOOK

A meticulous anatomy of a bullying victim.

Determinedly normal Eric Haskins is dumbfounded when his best friend, just back from camp, joins with a couple of other boys to call him “Grunt” at the beginning of sixth grade. Pretty soon, Eric is the class pariah; even decent and stalwart Melody turns away. A couple of chance remarks convince Eric that he’s just the latest in a long line of sixth-grade Grunts and that the bullies are actually working from a manual. Readers know that Eric’s right, because interspersed with his journal entries chronicling his miserable year are excerpts from the titular Bully Book, which advises, “You have to create yourself. And to keep yourself safe, you have to create other people too, like the Grunt.” Eric’s quest to uncover the Bully Book is genuinely suspenseful. The juxtaposition of Eric’s journal against the Bully Book allows readers to see both the bullies’ methodology and Eric’s unwitting complicity. Gale gutsily portrays a gloves-off sixth-grade classroom in which variations of “gay” are flung around as insults (a usage that Eric articulately and bravely challenges). While it’s hard to imagine even the numbest substitute teacher routinely allowing a vocabulary lesson to become a bullying opportunity (“Eric Haskins is generally stupid”), the other adults in Eric’s life are convincingly ineffectual or self-deluded.

A compelling and unusual look at a complex and intractable problem that succeeds admirably as story as well. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-212511-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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