For the curious, the listeners, the adventurers, the caregivers, the young, and the old.

ONCE UPON A CAMEL

How does one entertain two baby kestrels in the middle of a West Texas dust storm? With camel stories, of course.

Like her namesake Scheherazade, elderly camel Zada has many stories to tell from her adventurous life. It’s 1910, and she has charge of Wims and Beulah, two baby kestrels whose parents have vanished in a vicious dust storm. The threesome shelter in an empty mountain lion’s cave, waiting for safety. Zada hopes to get the chicks to the safe meeting place chosen by their parents just before a dust devil snatched them away. The evocative language is spellbinding as tales from Zada’s life calm the baby birds—and capture the interest of readers as well. The fledglings learn that Zada was raised by a Turkish pasha and gifted with eight other prized racing camels to the U.S. Army in 1856, ending up in Texas (events inspired by actual history). A delight to the senses, Zada’s stories are a descriptive wonder, featuring roiling dust, howling winds, fresh figs, and cool water, bolstering the emotions shown in Rohmann’s grayscale oil paintings. Readers will revel in both the vivid stories of Zada’s past and the rich vocabulary of Texas desert life. Appelt’s voice and pacing demonstrate her fine storytelling skills. Hearts will grow fond of this wise old camel; she is a bright star.

For the curious, the listeners, the adventurers, the caregivers, the young, and the old. (glossary, author’s note, sources) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0643-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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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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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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