A moving and memorable tale of a boy and his bear.

MOON BEAR

Like Nâam-pèng, the bravest bee in a much-loved story, a boy faces a monster—bear-bile farming—and makes a difference.

When the moon bear cub that Tam first encountered in the forests near his family’s old village arrives as a captive for the bear farm in a Laotian city where the 12-year-old has been sent to work, Tam promises to get them both back to their mountain home. Tam’s village life ended with his tribe’s relocation to the lowlands. Then a bomb, buried in their new farmland during the war 40 years earlier, kills his father. Gen. Chan, responsible for the relocation, arranges employment for young Tam in a city “farm” where bears are kept in cages so that bile, used for traditional medicine, can be extracted from their gall bladders. Gen. Chan is also a customer. His beloved daughter is ill; he hopes the bile will cure her. Though the work is hard and his boss unstable, Tam is staying with a family that cares for him; the bears aren’t so lucky. This appealing first-person account spotlights a lesser-known issue of animal cruelty but, appropriately for its audience, has a hopeful resolution. There is sufficient Laotian history and culture woven in to provide an authentic, intriguing setting, along with just the right measure of suspense.

A moving and memorable tale of a boy and his bear. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0094-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.

HOW TO SPEAK DOLPHIN

Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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