“The pen is mightier than the sword” lives on.

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LETTERS TO A PRISONER

In this wordless picture book, a light-skinned man moves from a peaceful protest march with his young child to imprisonment for his views and finally back to his home—with the help of letters from around the world.

The cartoons are masterful black-ink sketches with highlights of watercolor. Placards carried by the man and his cohorts bear bright red, filled-in circles, similar to the appearance of his daughter’s balloon. When the amorphous, peaceful band of protestors reaches an official-looking building, a frightening, well-organized phalanx of dark-blue soldiers in helmets appears, threatening violence. One soldier injures the man, who is then dragged into an ambulance. Not brutal enough? The soldier deliberately pops the daughter’s balloon. The man languishes in solitary confinement, sharing bread crumbs with a mouse and a bird. The cartoons illustrate the prisoner’s experiences of nostalgia, tedium, and hopelessness. When letters start arriving, the man’s joy is short-lived; the guard burns them. But as diverse groups and individuals send more and more letters, the dark smoke sends an SOS around the world. An image both beautiful and funny shows the man flying on wings of letters, as the guard below utters profanities. An author’s note (translated by Angela Keenlyside) informs readers that Goldstyn was inspired by the letter-writing campaigns of human rights organization Amnesty International. His book is an accessible and inspiring tribute.

“The pen is mightier than the sword” lives on. (author’s note) (Picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77147-251-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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