McDunn’s tale of growing beyond a toxic childhood friendship will ring painfully true for many a reader. (Fiction. 8-12)

It’s tough to stand up to the queen.

Anxious Meg has always deferred to bold, popular Beatrix—knowing, unhappily, that Beatrix will quickly freeze her out if she doesn’t. Beatrix dictates what electives the two will share, what childhood traditions they will and won’t retain, and what Meg must do or say to retain her favor. When Meg is one of four seventh graders to be accepted into the competitive science elective, the very thought of telling Beatrix that they will no longer share dance brings unparalleled terror. However, it is eccentric, bee-obsessed new girl Hazel who relates that ill news at a more ill-fated neighborhood party, invoking Beatrix’s immediate animosity and Meg’s warring admiration and consternation. As Meg and Hazel begin to forge a connection through a science project featuring Hazel’s bees, Meg must find the courage to face down her failing friendship with Beatrix, her town’s (and her own) prejudices against the bees, and, ultimately, herself. Meg’s first-person narration is emotive and candid, maintaining sympathy even as her occasional hypocrisy provokes outrage. Middle school drama, including concerns regarding the legitimacy of its power, is tenderly treated, and the connections between characters—family, friends, classmates, and teachers—feel refreshingly genuine. The novel adheres to a white default, with some ethnic diversity among the supporting cast.

McDunn’s tale of growing beyond a toxic childhood friendship will ring painfully true for many a reader. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68119-751-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019


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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