An original tale of family love, scientific passion, and a truly epic journey of self-discovery.

Instead of a lost kitten, 11-year-old Stella “Bug” Rodriguez rescues a black hole she names Larry (“short for Singularity, which I’d read is a place of infinite gravity at the heart of a black hole”).

For a lonely, precocious, science-loving girl who idolizes Carl Sagan, nothing could be better—at least, at first. Soon the chaos of the actual black hole forces Stella to confront the metaphorical black hole of sadness left by the death of her father. Her intense grief—equaled only by her fear of confronting it head on—contrasts with the wacky humor of a slightly domesticated black hole that consumes everything, including Stinky Stu, the class hamster, a neighbor’s garden gnomes, and the new family puppy. Stella and her little brother, Cosmo, embark on a surreal journey, printed in white type on a black background, through Larry’s depths in search of the dog, ordering up what they need as if Larry were a cosmic, malfunctioning Siri (“ ‘LAMPS!” we shouted. “NOT STAMPS. LAMPS! SWALLOW LIGHT. LIGHT!” A moment later we saw a kite sail by”). Throughout the book Stella addresses her father directly as “you,” a potent reminder of the fresh intensity of her loss. Set in 1977, this quirky story is enhanced by charming pen-and-ink illustrations. Aside from Stella’s surname, which suggests the family is Latinx, race and ethnicity are unspecified.

An original tale of family love, scientific passion, and a truly epic journey of self-discovery. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-53913-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017


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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