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THE PURLOINING OF PRINCE OLEOMARGARINE

A pensive and whimsical work that Twain would applaud.

This recently discovered Twain fairy tale finds life as a picture book.

Completing a story penned by arguably America’s greatest author is no easy feat, but the Caldecott-winning author-illustrator (and husband-wife) team proves more than equal to the task, transforming Twain’s jotted notes in an 1879 journal entry about a story told to his daughters into a beautifully illustrated fable that showcases the exemplary talents of all three artists. The tale follows the adventures of Johnny, a kindhearted African-American child being raised by his cruel grandfather. Forced to sell his only friend—a pet chicken—Johnny, rather like Jack before him, instead acquires seeds, the flowers from which enable him to converse with animals. When Prince Oleomargarine—the kingdom’s heir—is kidnapped, Johnny and his animal friends mount a rescue. Interwoven through the fairy tale is a series of author’s notes detailing a fictitious meeting between Twain and the author, from which this story emerges. Twain’s presence in the narrative allows Philip Stead to both acknowledge his literary debt and retain the freedom to make the tale his own. He is aided by Erin Stead’s sublime print illustrations, which demonstrate her masterful ability to create physical presence and characters’ emotions as well as landscapes; the muted greens, soft blues, and light pinkish-brown hues of her double-page spreads set a magical tone for a world that mirrors, but is not quite, our own.

A pensive and whimsical work that Twain would applaud. (Picture book. 8-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52322-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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THE ONE AND ONLY FAMILY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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THE WILD ROBOT PROTECTS

From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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