Lovers of animal fantasy may flock to it, but it’s not likely to win over genre skeptics.

COO

Abandoned in Queens, a white human infant was rescued and raised by a flock of pigeons; now it’s her turn to rescue them.

Occupying an old dovecote on an abandoned factory roof, Coo’s flock survives on a dumpster’s stale bagels and doughnut crumbs, nesting on shredded newspaper and plastic bags. Coo earns her keep shooing predators away. When Burr, the flock member responsible for her survival, is savaged by a hawk, Coo, who speaks only pigeon (represented as pidgin English), descends to the ground for the first time in order to seek Tully, a human woman (likely also white) who feeds pigeons, restoring injured ones to health. Tully takes Burr and gives Coo her hat, scarf, and food, but she fails to persuade the girl—thin, dirty, clothed in plastic—to come too. Starvation threatens the flock when their dumpster disappears. Again, Coo braves the human world; this time, she lets Tully bring her home, where she finds Burr—alive and healed but permanently flightless. Learning English, Burr and a human friend help Coo adapt. When forces attacking city pigeons threaten her old flock, Coo mounts a desperate rescue. Despite a compelling setting and engaging characters, jarring contradictions hobble this debut. Dumpster diving and scavenging nest materials are detailed with grim realism; bird (and human) droppings are mentioned once. Fantasy’s soft focus blurs the hard issues raised—child abandonment, the scourge and plight of urban birds—diminishing their impact.

Lovers of animal fantasy may flock to it, but it’s not likely to win over genre skeptics. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295597-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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