Readers taking the plunge into new activities or new places will appreciate this uplifting tale.


A wheelchair-using seventh grader must overcome her fear in order to swim with the dolphins she loves.

For KT Wynn, leaving Iowa City and her BFFs for Fernbank, Florida, fewer than 60 days before her 13th birthday is already hard. Worse, she and her wheelchair, Sprinkle, have trouble fitting into the “jigsaw puzzle” of Fernbank Middle School, even after she meets outgoing Sabina (aka Socks) and her friends. Fortunately, Fernbank also offers the Dolphina Cove dolphin sanctuary—where KT gets the chance to swim with her favorite animals! But when it’s time, she discovers that “the thing [she loves] the most can also be the scariest.” Can she swim with dolphins and navigate the murky waters of middle school friendship? Though KT’s friends and classmates (and their hashtag-laden dialogue) are largely indistinguishable from one another, Paddock sympathetically explores homesickness and the anxious awkwardness of making friends. KT’s gradual overcoming of her dolphin fear is realistic, and her family is comfortingly supportive—particularly her 17-year-old sister, who sometimes has “mysterious teenager” moods but always has her back. KT tackles patronizing grown-ups with dry aplomb, and dolphin facts pepper her narrative. Most characters, including KT and her family, appear white. One is Jewish; another is Latinx. Socks has gluten and peanut allergies; her hairstyle, described as “lots of short, dark brown braids,” will likely lead readers to imagine her as black.

Readers taking the plunge into new activities or new places will appreciate this uplifting tale. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-53812-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner


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

Did you like this book?

An inspiring sports story all the way to the buzzer.


Basketball is life in Lorain, Ohio.

A group of seventh graders have different reasons for joining Hoop Group, an elite youth basketball program. Jayden, who lives in a tiny, cramped house with his mother and grandmother, desperately needs the money playing for the NBA would bring. Chris’ uncle made it out of Lorain and into the NBA, but he doesn’t share his uncle’s skills and can’t quite live up to his father’s expectations. Tamika’s dad was Hoop Group’s coach before Parkinson’s disease put the team’s future in jeopardy; she has a lot to prove and dreams of being the next Pat Summitt. Dex and his hardworking single mom are struggling with poverty, but he just loves the game––especially the Cleveland Cavs. And Anthony, frankly, doesn’t have much of a choice; it was either join this character-building group or face expulsion from school. A makeshift team of preteens with a lot on their plates, they discover as much about themselves (and one another) off the court as they do on it. The authors present a convincing argument about the value of basketball beyond points on the board and big contracts. The characters’ dreams are relatable along with the book’s universally valuable emphasis on hard work and perseverance. But the specifics about what it takes to make it in basketball and the fast-paced on-court action provide something special for young fans of the game. Main characters read as Black.

An inspiring sports story all the way to the buzzer. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297109-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?