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. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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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 deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...


The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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