The main character grows over the course of this story, but her path is loaded with heavy-handed didacticism.

New kid Angie is on a mission to achieve popularity.

Twelve-year-old Angie Larson wants to make sure she’s not invisible at her new middle school like she was before. The key to popularity, she deduces, comes in befriending her class’s resident queen bee, Olivia Hart. She thinks she’ll have it made if she can score an invite to Olivia’s birthday party. One of the main obstacles to the image she wants to project, however, comes from her mother’s insistence that she take jujitsu despite Angie’s passionately hating it (and even making a lengthy list of why she finds it gross). Not only that, Angie’s mother signs her up for a tournament, meaning even more time on the mat. The first-person narrative, which expounds at length about Angie’s cool girl ambitions, also gives room to play-by-play exposition on diabetes (a prominent secondary character has it) and the mechanics behind how the martial arts moves work. The book uses cringe humor, putting Angie in embarrassing situations (that her mother is luckily often there to solve for her), but it also has Angie grappling with heavier issues like bullying and body image in subplots that have tidy conclusions that might strike some readers as too simplistic. Angie and Olivia are White; ethnic diversity is mostly signaled through characters’ names.

The main character grows over the course of this story, but her path is loaded with heavy-handed didacticism. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-63163-692-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jolly Fish Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022


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


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

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