THE DONKEY OF GALLIPOLI

A TRUE STORY OF COURAGE IN WORLD WAR I

As a lad in England, Jack Simpson worked at a beachfront donkey ride—an experience that came in handy years later when, as an ANZAC stretcher-bearer, he discovered a donkey cowering in a Turkish gully. With shells exploding all around, he manufactured a lead rope from field dressings and in following weeks gamely walked a regular route, carrying water up to the front lines and hundreds of casualties back down through “Shrapnel Alley.” As did more than 300,000 of his fellows, he caught a bullet at last and was buried with particular reverence nearby, in a cemetery aptly called Hell Spit. Lessac downplays pain, blood and violence in her stylized, richly hued gouache paintings, depicting instead battlefields strewn with small bushes and flowers and uniformed human figures, wounded or just weary, carrying themselves with quiet dignity. Little studied in this country but a watershed campaign for the nations that fought it, the bitter battle of Gallipoli stands in for every war in this simply told tale. “Lest we forget...” (historical notes, bibliography) (Picture book/nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3913-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

MILLIONAIRES FOR THE MONTH

Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable.

A reward of $5,000,000 almost ruins everything for two seventh graders.

On a class trip to New York City, Felix and Benji find a wallet belonging to social media billionaire Laura Friendly. Benji, a well-off, chaotic kid with learning disabilities, swipes $20 from the wallet before they send it back to its owner. Felix, a poor, shy, rule-follower, reluctantly consents. So when Laura Friendly herself arrives to give them a reward for the returned wallet, she’s annoyed. To teach her larcenous helpers a lesson, Laura offers them a deal: a $20,000 college scholarship or slightly over $5 million cash—but with strings attached. The boys must spend all the money in 30 days, with legal stipulations preventing them from giving anything away, investing, or telling anyone about it. The glorious windfall quickly grows to become a chore and then a torment as the boys appear increasingly selfish and irresponsible to the adults in their lives. They rent luxury cars, hire a (wonderful) philosophy undergrad as a chauffeur, take their families to Disney World, and spend thousands on in-app game purchases. Yet, surrounded by hedonistically described piles of loot and filthy lucre, the boys long for simpler fundamentals. The absorbing spending spree reads like a fun family film, gleefully stuffed with the very opulence it warns against. Major characters are White.

Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable. (mathematical explanations) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-17525-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

MY LIFE AS A POTATO

On equal footing with a garden-variety potato.

The new kid in school endures becoming the school mascot.

Ben Hardy has never cared for potatoes, and this distaste has become a barrier to adjusting to life in his new Idaho town. His school’s mascot is the Spud, and after a series of misfortunes, Ben is enlisted to don the potato costume and cheer on his school’s team. Ben balances his duties as a life-sized potato against his desperate desire to hide the fact that he’s the dork in the suit. After all, his cute new crush, Jayla, wouldn’t be too impressed to discover Ben’s secret. The ensuing novel is a fairly boilerplate middle–grade narrative: snarky tween protagonist, the crush that isn’t quite what she seems, and a pair of best friends that have more going on than our hero initially believes. The author keeps the novel moving quickly, pushing forward with witty asides and narrative momentum so fast that readers won’t really mind that the plot’s spine is one they’ve encountered many times before. Once finished, readers will feel little resonance and move on to the next book in their to-read piles, but in the moment the novel is pleasant enough. Ben, Jayla, and Ben’s friend Hunter are white while Ellie, Ben’s other good pal, is Latina.

On equal footing with a garden-variety potato. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11866-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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