The Nearly Calamitous Taming of PZ

Without a home, without a name, and with her puppies taken from her, a foxhound is rescued from a laboratory and begins the treacherous journey of learning how to live in the world.

When PZ-5934—as her tattoo reads, the only name she has ever known—leaves the laboratory cage in which she has lived her entire life, she feels not relief or exultation but paralyzing fear. Everything is new and terrifying—cars, grass, fences, doors, and the tiny black-and-red dot that starts to speak to her. Before long, however, PZ realizes that Dottie the ladybug is a friend who, Jiminy Cricket–like, will help guide her transition to life as a human companion. PZ makes slow progress and becomes attached to her rescuer, Lynn, only to find that once again her life is turned inside out when she becomes the adoptee of a young girl named Olivia, who recently lost her father. PZ—now named Lolly J.—and Olivia want to love each other, but they both struggle with trust and patience, making for a rocky beginning. The third-person narration switches between Lolly J. and Olivia, underscoring the author’s point that the relationship between a dog and a human evolves from changes on both sides. “You know what?” Olivia says to Lolly J. “The thing is, I needed taming, too.” Ritter is at her best when grappling with her main characters’ internal lives, outlining in an accessible, realistically paced way how the psychology of grief and trauma can give way to hope and love. The Disney-fied elements she adds in to enliven the story—e.g., the presence of Dottie and a 101 Dalmations–like rescue in the final chapters—seem somewhat less genuine and successful, though they may help engage younger readers. Ryan’s expressive black-and-white illustrations will do the same.

Essential reading for anyone who has adopted, or is planning to adopt, a dog in need of love.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-49958-802-6

Page Count: 223

Publisher: Bradley Street Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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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 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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