Bibliotherapy is a tricky business, as is the desire to shield young children from images that may cause nightmares. This is...

Created to benefit the International Board on Books for Young People’s Fund for Children in Crisis program, this picture book presents provocative images and ideas regarding the violence many young people encounter.

Twelve Mexican artists each depict a different scene from a single child’s dream about how life could be: A life-sized pistol emits a butterfly; scarred and weapon-toting drug lords sell and blow soap bubbles; a cloud of laughing mouths outwits a kidnapper. Each spread varies stylistically, from cheery pop art to dark caricatures, but this works in the dream context. The narrator wakes to a reality of skeletal arms rising from the earth, attended by crows—a composition symbolic of the nightmare lived by many. The concluding message of inspiration uses the metaphor of city trees that “fight back” (an unfortunate word choice, given the book’s mission) “and break open the sidewalks… / and grow despite everything,” unlike those that are “crushed by the pavement.” The challenge will be matching this to the right audience—more mature children or those who have lived through the worlds evoked. The cover illustration of lacey, white dandelion fluff does not hint at the dangers within, and this purposeful book is not an all-purpose read.

Bibliotherapy is a tricky business, as is the desire to shield young children from images that may cause nightmares. This is sure to arouse passion in both camps. (editor’s note) (Picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55498-330-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013


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


The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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