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Simultaneously predictable and quirky, this will likely appeal to the author’s fans but may not attract new readers.

This offbeat tale offers an uneasy mix of magical transformation, violence and bullying, and the dreary misery of family dysfunction.

Ultimately, Barney Willow’s sad and odd story drags on a bit too long. Depressed by his parents’ divorce and tormented by a schoolmate, Barney is manipulated by a cruel adult into wishing his life away—literally. After magically switching bodies with a small cat named Maurice, Barney must discover how to regain his humanity. Pursued by Miss Whipmire, the school principal who encouraged his metamorphosis for reasons of her own, Barney seeks protection from his best friend Rissa and his mother. While they eventually understand his outlandish predicament and do their best to help, it’s Barney’s (mysteriously) absent father who provides the information needed to return to his former life. Haig’s writing has somewhat Snicket-ian overtones with occasional coy authorial asides and plenty of pain, suffering, danger and despair. The plot offers some surprises but also feels repetitious in spots. Characterization is brisk but generally effective, with familiar types occupying the background: the quirky best friend with supportive, artsy parents, the vicious bully who turns out to have a surprising weak spot, the harried mum trying hard to carry on in the face of domestic difficulties.

Simultaneously predictable and quirky, this will likely appeal to the author’s fans but may not attract new readers. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-5405-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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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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