Warm and wise for middle-grade readers who appreciate just a hint of the fantastic.

When her mother is accidentally transformed by a powerful potion, Molly learns to accept the magic in her own life.

Ten-year-old Molly would like an ordinary mother, not someone who collects herbs in the woods, makes healthy, homemade snacks, and picks her up from school on a bicycle built for two. But that’s before her mother accidentally drinks a concoction meant to speed an acorn’s growth and turns into a tree. Left on her own with only her dog and disdainful cat for company, Molly makes a new friend, learns something surprising about an old one, and finds her own “particular kind of light.” Though magic is involved, this story of self-discovery is mainly about friendship and appreciating differences. Best friend Ellen’s life seems wonderfully commonplace, but Ellen worries she’s boring. And, surprisingly, Molly is intrigued by Pim, “the oddest boy in school.” When he seems open to the strangeness of her terrible new problem, she enlists his help. The Australian setting is unobtrusively revealed by occasional mention of specific species; there’s no mention of race or skin color, though the title characters are depicted as white in cover art. The author’s black-and-white sketches of flowers and other important features of the story head chapters and occasionally accompany text. Molly's notebook, with illustrations and descriptions of plants and their uses, completes the package.

Warm and wise for middle-grade readers who appreciate just a hint of the fantastic. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55040-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016


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


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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