From the Elvis and the Underdogs series , Vol. 2

A light, warm and (very) fuzzy read.

Happy-go-lucky Benji Barnsworth and his fellow underdogs pursue goofy adventures through Washington, D.C., in Lee’s feel-good sequel to Elvis and the Underdogs (2013).

It’s been three months since Elvis, Benji’s talking service/therapy/emotional-support dog was returned to his original assignment: the president of the United States. Landing in the hospital yet again, Benji searches for videos of the curmudgeonly first dog and finds Elvis wagging an urgent message in Morse code, which Alexander Chang-Cohen, his “human computer” friend, naturally deciphers. Benji, along with Alexander and perky star athlete Taisy, must get to Washington (via convenient coincidences tailored to their character traits) and rescue Elvis from becoming a prime minister’s birthday present. It’s best to abandon disbelief as the “pack” wreaks havoc on the White House in a series of slapstick mishaps and miscommunications. The service-dog terminology remains careless, but Elvis’ elaborately denied jealousy of Benji’s new dog provides comic banter as well as relationship development—he gets in some great deadpan one-liners. Alexander and Taisy are nearly caricatures, but at least their extreme traits illustrate the book’s message: Friendship “requires a tolerance pact. You tolerate all my weirdo quirky things and I’ll tolerate yours.” The resolution is fluffy if implausible, with any loose ends tied in a bow—but then, the chronically, wackily unfortunate Benji deserves to have something go right.

A light, warm and (very) fuzzy read. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-223556-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014


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

Close Quickview