THE MISSING 'GATOR OF GUMBO LIMBO

AN ECOLOGICAL MYSTERY

The naturalist-novelist returns to the genre she invented in Who Really Killed Cock Robin? (1971) with a mystery incorporating a wealth of details about a threatened Florida habitat. Here, Liza K. and her mom—escaping abusive dad—live in a tent on an island- like hammock (a raised area with a unique habitat) in the Everglades. Nearby are other homeless, including "James James," Vietnam vet and expert naturalist, as well as an oversized alligator, Dajun, endangered by a Pest Control official who's out to shoot him. Though nearby condos spew pollutants, Dajun's natural behavior keeps his pool clean. Aware of the hunter, Dajun hides; Liza K. and friends try to find him to lure him to safety. The natural history steals the show here, as George intended. Liza K.'s expertise on the functions of almost every bush, bird, and bug stretch credulity; still, a kid who is both gifted and dedicated can learn a lot, and she has a fine resource in James James. Few readers will absorb even a fraction of the information here, but the sense of an overall pattern is conveyed with enthusiasm, and they'll catch enough to understand how Liza K. finally figures out where Dajun is. The happy ending all around is pretty unrealistic (the hammock becomes a nature preserve, the vet its curator; the indigent are kindly taken care of; and Mom gets a better job), but it does make for an entertaining finish. George is a fine writer; and though the message is heavy-handed, it's one about which many young people are deeply concerned. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-020396-X

Page Count: 148

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1992

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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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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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