Well-worn tropes but a charming adventure story with a resourceful heroine.

Felicity ~

A SPARROW'S TALE

In this illustrated chapter book for middle-grade readers, a brave little sparrow agrees to go on a dangerous journey and free the fairy queen from her evil hawk captor.

Felicity is an ordinary brown sparrow who loves to read. She was taught by Augustus, an ivory-billed woodpecker, who took care of Felicity after a hawk killed her parents. One day, a tiny man dressed in leaves—a fairy named Colin, it turns out—shows up at Felicity’s nest, looking for the woodpecker, who’s needed by the fairy king. But Augustus hasn’t been around, and no one knows where he is. As Colin leaves in disappointment, he’s attacked by a hawk, Felicity warning him just in time (though his wings are damaged). A kind soul, Felicity offers to fly Colin home to the Wildwood. There, she learns that Colin is the son of King Taron and that his mother, Queen Lilia, has been imprisoned by evil sorcerer Grak, called the Night Hawk. An enchantment protects his lair from fairies; birds can enter, but getting past the stone door requires reading the password written there (fortunately, Augustus is literate, as is Felicity). Though frightened, Felicity takes on the quest to brave Grak’s enchantments and rescue Queen Lilia, an adventure that will take strength, smarts, and determination. Evans (The Shores of Bountiful, 2013, etc.) presents an appealing heroine in shy but courageous Felicity, who puzzles things out intelligently while taking bold risks. The fairyland setting is well-drawn, with notable details like the fairy guards’ rose-thorn spears. Many elements of the story feel familiar: the ordinary young person who has something special; the heroine who overcomes tragedy; a puzzle in three parts; the there-and-back-again structure. Also, while Evans generally portrays a sparrow’s point of view well, she can be inconsistent: why would a bird who has no word for automobile (“featherless two-foot’s cart”) be able to correctly name “telephone wire”? Overall, though, Felicity makes an appealing character; youngsters who love to read will feel especially drawn to her.

Well-worn tropes but a charming adventure story with a resourceful heroine.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-692-30691-8

Page Count: 184

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

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An unabashed love letter from mother.

I LOVE YOU, LITTLE POOKIE

From the Little Pookie series

A sweet celebration of the bond between a mother and her Pookie.

The eighth installment in this always charming series eschews the episodic drama and silliness of earlier outing such as Spooky Pookie (2015) in favor of a mom’s-eye-view celebration of her child and the time they spend together. There is, of course, nothing wrong with drama and silliness. But while the lack of conflict and plot in favor of unapologetic sentiment makes this book a quick read, that doesn’t make it any less endearing. The rhymed verse captures a mother’s wonder as she observes the many facets of her child’s personality: “Ah, Pookie. My little one. My funny one. My child. // Sometimes you are quiet. Sometimes you are wild.” On the simple joys of shared moments, she notes, “I love to go walking with you by my side. / I love when we sing when we go for a ride. // And I love just to watch as you think and you play. / The way that you are is a wonderful way.” Paired with author/illustrator Boynton’s irresistible renderings of a porcine mommy and her playful, snuggly little piglet, the result is impossible to fault. Whether quietly reading, running in a tiger suit, singing with mom in the car, ears flapping in the breeze, or enjoying the safety of mom’s embrace, Pookie’s appeal continues unabated.

An unabashed love letter from mother. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3723-4

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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