A solid first effort from an aspiring young author, despite flaws and an uncertain intended audience.

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THE WAR OF THE WOLVES

Debut author Scanio’s YA tale of a young wolf who vows to take revenge against the pack that killed her family.

Luna is making preparations for her little brother’s coming-of-age howling ceremony when a sudden forest fire has her fleeing for her life. Once the fire dies down, she returns to her territory but is unable to find her family. She then travels and meets another wolf, Na’vi, who informs her that her family was killed. Na’vi also later reveals that his own family was murdered by the Desert Valley Pack, and he smelled traces of the pack’s scent around the bodies of Luna’s dead family. Luna and Na’vi eventually meet another wolf, Caleb, and his pack, and Caleb tells Luna and Na’vi that the Desert Valley Pack murdered his father, too. Later, they learn that Caleb’s brother, Bullet, is a traitor working for the Desert Valley Pack. Together, Caleb, Luna, Na’vi and their new friends vow to exact revenge against their shared enemies. After a series of skirmishes, the final battle looms. Luna’s story certainly has the potential to be a captivating one, as Luna makes friends with other wronged wolves on her path to revenge. However, the simplistic prose can be clunky at times, and scads of exposition tend to bury the narrative, leaving the characters short on depth and difficult to distinguish from one another. To be fair, some wolves do stand out, especially Blade, the black wolf with the rotten attitude. And sometimes Scanio lets her characters emote quite beautifully: “Tears ran down [Luna’s] muzzle,” she writes. “She lay down on the ground and covered her eyes with her paws.” But as a whole, the wolves aren’t particularly memorable characters, and readers will be left feeling little in the way of empathy as the wolves proceed to kill one another. The recurring violence may also be at odds with the narrative’s intended audience; the prose style and length suggest the story is meant to be cataloged as a chapter book, but it’s difficult to imagine parents of beginning readers being OK, for example, with Bullet snapping his own father’s neck.

A solid first effort from an aspiring young author, despite flaws and an uncertain intended audience.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4772-8290-8

Page Count: 80

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2013

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 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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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

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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