A rollicking, charming historical thriller

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THE ELEPHANT THIEF

Set in Scotland and northern England, BBC journalist Kerr’s middle-grade debut is based on the true story of a marketing stunt in 1872, when an elephant called Maharajah was ridden from Edinburgh to Manchester.

When brown-skinned orphan Danny, a mute, mixed-race street urchin, is dispatched to an Edinburgh auction by a criminal gang leader, he accidentally helps Mr. Jameson, owner of the Belle Vue menagerie, buy Maharajah. Maharajah is owned by a rival traveling circus that is closing down. When Jameson accepts an impossible wager—to walk Maharajah from Edinburgh to Manchester in less than seven days, or lose everything—he offers Danny the job of doing so, as he observes that Danny and Maharajah seem to immediately have a special connection. He transforms Danny into a bejeweled “Indian prince,” or Prince Dandip. As he rides Maharajah from Scotland to England, even Queen Victoria takes an interest. Danny becomes a celebrity, but his past entanglements, including a notorious gang leader, are following, desperate to ruin him. Given that the novel is based on true events, readers may know Danny and Maharajah do reach Manchester (a skeleton of the real Maharajah is on display in Manchester Museum). Yet Kerr provides ample historical detail and fictional twists to keep readers engaged to the end. Her measured third-person narrative develops Danny and the secondary cast with affection and nuance, Danny’s consciousness of his difference and the slights he suffers because of it ever present.

A rollicking, charming historical thriller . (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-18843-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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