An engagingly imaginative, rich, and humorous insect tale.


From the Forever Friends series , Vol. 1

In this dual-language children’s book, a boy’s beloved beetles come to the rescue.

In this tale, set some time ago, the island of Yagüate features sugar cane fields on which rhino beetles feed, though they leave plenty to harvest. Seven-year-old Poolishwawee, with light brown skin, adores the insects, even though they smell bad from their habit of rolling poop (available in vast quantities from manure fertilizer) into balls. His dream is to become “an astronaut entomologist specializing in space beetles.” Ominous signs, like a giant rhino beetle crossing the moon, warn of danger. Poolishwawee and two friends go walking in the sugar cane and get lost as a storm brews. Raul Valcarcel, who’s burning the fields after insecticide doesn’t work, threatens to arrest the kids for trespassing, but they’re defended by pet cat Lily Bones. A hailstorm of beetle-shaped ice descends on the smoky fields, and Tunkun—the giant rhino beetle of legend who, with the huge scorpion Noprok, created the continents—awakens. The sugar cane fields catch on fire, and all of Yagüate unites to put out the blaze. Only Tunkun and his army of beetle firefighters can save the crops and the island. In his latest children’s book, offered in both English and Spanish, Perez manages to combine wonderfully goofy humor with a real sense of mythmaking, along with a subtle environmental message. Poolishwawee’s besottedness is funny, but he’s also genuinely disturbed by the field-burning plans: “ ‘Beetles not dying fast enough,’ Poolishwawee repeated, not believing the words.” The author is a striking phrase maker; for a girl’s French mother, “a ruby smidgen of her heart” remains in Paris, and manure’s smell is “the rumpus of cow poop.” The Spanish version is an uncredited solid translation, almost word for word. The uncredited digital illustrations have an attractively stylized, cartoonish look, with dramatic compositions that underline the action.

An engagingly imaginative, rich, and humorous insect tale.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9899104-8-4

Page Count: 100

Publisher: Astro Rhino Beetle

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2020

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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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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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