Brilliant, joyful, and deeply moving.


Inspired by her friendship with a famous poet, an 11-year-old attempts to rescue a baby elephant.

Oriol is homesick for Cuba, bullied at school for her Spanish accent, and mourning her Abuelita, who died after their family moved to California to help her receive a diabetes treatment that failed. Set in Santa Barbara in 1947, this novel in verse follows Oriol, who finds comfort in caring for animals at her parents’ veterinary clinic and at a nearby wildlife ranch where movies are filmed. She also befriends an elderly neighbor, later revealed to be a fictionalized version of a real historical figure: Gabriela Mistral, the Chilean poet of mestizo Incan and Basque heritage and the first Latin American winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. Mistral teaches Oriol to write poems as a way of coping with her emotions and later encourages her to write a petition to help free a baby elephant cruelly separated from her mother and twin sibling. The book is replete with lovely, nearly magical imagery: In one scene, the mother elephant uses her trunk to swoop Oriol off her feet for a hug. In another, elephants and humans march together for justice. Throughout, the power of words—both to help children find where they belong and to make the world a kinder place—profoundly resonates.

Brilliant, joyful, and deeply moving. (author's note, poem by Gabriela Mistral, further reading) (Verse historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-20669-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Certain to steal hearts.


In this follow-up to 2020’s The One and Only Bob, Ruby the elephant is still living at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary.

She’s apprehensive about her Tuskday, a rite of passage for young elephants when she’ll give a speech in front of the rest of the herd. Luckily, she can confide in her Uncle Ivan, who is next door in Gorilla World, and Uncle Bob, the dog who lives nearby with human friend Julia. Ruby was born in an unspecified part of Africa, later ending up on display in the mall, where she met Ivan, Bob, and Julia. The unexpected arrival of someone from Ruby’s past life on the savanna revives memories both warmly nostalgic and deeply traumatic. An elephant glossary and Castelao’s charming, illustrated guide to elephant body language help immerse readers in Ruby’s world. Goofy, playful, and mischievous Ruby is fully dimensional, as she has shown her bravery during the many hardships of her young life. Applegate deftly tempers themes of grief and loss with compassion and humor as Ruby finds her place in the herd. The author’s note touches on climate change, the illegal ivory trade, and conservation efforts, but the highly emotive framing of the story through the memories of a bewildered baby elephant emphasizes the impact of lines such as “ ‘in Africa,’ I say softly, ‘there were bad people,’ ” without offering readers a nuanced understanding of the broader context that drives poaching.

Certain to steal hearts. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780063080089

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...


A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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