An absolutely wonderful fantasy tale.

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GUSTO & GECKO TRAVEL TO CHINA

Two friends help a giant panda challenge Chinese zodiac animals for a spot on the calendar in this latest picture book in a series.

Dinosaurs Gusto and Gecko are best friends who have a time machine. Their random destination: China, where they meet a giant panda who tells them of an upcoming contest featuring the 12 creatures of the Chinese zodiac and newcomers who want to take their spots. Panda decides to try after encouragement from Gusto and Gecko. The challenge takes them around China, where they compete by making Shanghai dumplings and performing Chinese opera, among other things. The final task: climbing a tower to light up the ice sculpture park in Harbin. No single animal can do it, but Panda decides they should cooperate. In the end, Panda gets a prize for “exceptional courage, friendship, and teamwork.” Han (Gusto & Gecko Travel to New Orleans, 2016, etc.) encourages cooperation in a way that’s fun but never preachy, and children may also learn about Chinese culture at the same time. The cast is sweet and amusing and shows real character; although Panda is no warrior, he still bravely protects everyone. Returning artist Hägg’s double-page illustration of a lighthouse is printed on coated paper that sparkles, and the effect is magic.

An absolutely wonderful fantasy tale.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9943413-2-7

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Pandasaur Pty. Ltd.

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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