Clichés and superficiality aside, a fun read for anyone who might wish they could be someone else for a little while.

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BETTER YOU THAN ME

The familiar body-swap scenario gets a further magic twist in this comedic middle school fantasy.

Skylar Welshman is an outsider—the new kid in her seventh-grade class. When she tries out for the school play, a mortifying onstage incident earns her the nickname Belchman. If only Skylar could have her idol’s perfect life. Ruby Rivera is the star of the Disney-esque genie comedy series Ruby in the Lamp. Although Ruby has everything superstardom brings, however, she wants to trade in her designer wardrobe and millions of social media followers for textbooks and sleepovers. A fantastic turn of events leads to accidental body-switching courtesy of a real magic lamp. Initially, each girl thinks she’s hit the jackpot. Skylar can have the life of a beloved star, and Ruby gets to be a regular kid. But then reality creeps in. Skylar has to get used to public scrutiny of her every move, and Ruby must navigate the pitfalls of middle school. Is the grass really greener on the other side? While the premise isn’t exactly earthshakingly original, it’s still an appealing one, though Brody misses an opportunity by not interrogating the girls’ experiences as members of different races: Ruby is a brown-skinned, bicultural Latina (Mexican and Salvadoran), and Skylar is white. The narrative’s on the long side for a middle-grade novel, but each girl narrates in alternating chapters, maintaining a brisk pace.

Clichés and superficiality aside, a fun read for anyone who might wish they could be someone else for a little while. (Fantasy. 8-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6971-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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