A beautifully told, textbook example of cultural appropriation.

Aisulu, 12, rescues an orphaned golden eagle nestling; what she does with it will determine her family’s future.

Her extended family belongs to Western Mongolia’s ethnic minority population of nomadic, Muslim Kazakhs who herd horses, yaks, and goats, moving upland in summer and lowland in winter. When Aisulu’s brother, Serik, breaks his leg chasing an eagle, their parents take him to a distant clinic. Horrified when their uncle Dulat kills the eagle, Aisulu rescues its surviving eaglet, naming it Toktar. Guided by Dulat and his Tuvan wife, she raises and trains Toktar to hunt. Weeks later, Aisulu’s father returns with grim news: Serik has cancer; they must sell their herd to pay for his treatment. Dulat sees another option: entering Aisulu and Toktar in the Eagle Festival competition. An ESPN crew filming it will pay the winner enough to cover Serik’s treatment. Readers will root for Aisulu and her community, an ancient culture negotiating the contemporary world. However, Aisulu’s story is insufficiently contextualized. In 2014, Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl, competed and won at the festival, depicted in a 2016 documentary, The Eagle Huntress, well-reviewed and nominated for an Academy Award but also persuasively criticized for falsely claiming, so as to magnify her achievement, that women are barred from eagle hunting. The existence of women eagle hunters is briefly acknowledged here, but Aisulu’s activities provoke damaging, misogynistic bias, expression of which reinforces Western misconceptions and misrepresents reality.

A beautifully told, textbook example of cultural appropriation. (glossary) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-55746-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018


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


Certain to steal hearts.

In this follow-up to 2020’s The One and Only Bob, Ruby the elephant is still living at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary.

She’s apprehensive about her Tuskday, a rite of passage for young elephants when she’ll give a speech in front of the rest of the herd. Luckily, she can confide in her Uncle Ivan, who is next door in Gorilla World, and Uncle Bob, the dog who lives nearby with human friend Julia. Ruby was born in an unspecified part of Africa, later ending up on display in the mall, where she met Ivan, Bob, and Julia. The unexpected arrival of someone from Ruby’s past life on the savanna revives memories both warmly nostalgic and deeply traumatic. An elephant glossary and Castelao’s charming, illustrated guide to elephant body language help immerse readers in Ruby’s world. Goofy, playful, and mischievous Ruby is fully dimensional, as she has shown her bravery during the many hardships of her young life. Applegate deftly tempers themes of grief and loss with compassion and humor as Ruby finds her place in the herd. The author’s note touches on climate change, the illegal ivory trade, and conservation efforts, but the highly emotive framing of the story through the memories of a bewildered baby elephant emphasizes the impact of lines such as “ ‘in Africa,’ I say softly, ‘there were bad people,’ ” without offering readers a nuanced understanding of the broader context that drives poaching.

Certain to steal hearts. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780063080089

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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