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

SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS

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

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Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around...

THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE

Cooler-than-cool newcomer Styx Malone takes the more-sheltered brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene on a mischievous, path-altering, summer adventure of a lifetime as they embrace the extraordinary possibilities beyond the everyday in rural Indiana.

Readers may think an adventure such as they’ll find here wouldn’t be possible in the present day; this story takes place outside, where nature, know-how, creativity, and curiosity rule. Creeks, dirt roads, buried treasures, and more make up the landscape in Sutton, Indiana. Younger brother Caleb narrates, letting readers know from the outset that he’s tired of his dad’s racially tinged determination that they be safely ordinary: “I don’t want to be ordinary. I want to be…the other thing.” With Styx Malone around, Caleb and Bobby Gene will sure figure out what that “other thing” can become. The three black adolescents are enchanted with the miracle of the Great Escalator Trade, the mythic one-thing-leads-to-another bartering scheme that just might get them farther from Sutton than they’ve ever dreamed. As they get deeper and deeper into cahoots with Styx, they begin to notice that Styx harbors some secret ambitions of his own, further twisting this grand summer journey. “How do you move through the world knowing that you’re special, when no one else can see it?” begs the soul of this novel.

Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around them, striving to be more otherwise than ordinary. Please share. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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