The story is always fast-paced and imaginative, but maybe it’s a little too imaginative. Skeptics may prefer something a bit...

MUTANT BUNNY ISLAND

There’s a long, proud history of nonsense books, which includes Lewis Carroll and Dr. Seuss. But this novel makes less sense than most.

When Perry goes on vacation to Bunny Island, he packs nothing but junk food. He leaves on the spur of the moment because his uncle has mailed him a two-word distress call. The first word is “HELP.” The second word is “MEL,” and Perry interprets it to mean that his uncle has been kidnapped by intelligent newts. This actually makes sense. Perry and his uncle are fans of a comic book about Adm. Uli, a talking squid, and in the squid language, “mel” means newt. But even people who don’t read comics seem to think Perry’s behavior is normal. His father has no problem sending him across the world by himself, with no notice whatsoever. Juliet Jordan, a girl he meets on the island, does think his story is odd, but it doesn’t bother her much. “Sometimes,” she says, “life is better when you stop trying to make sense.” (Most of the characters are white, though one supporting character is described as “dark-skinned and cool looking.”) The book would have benefited from a few more skeptics. After all, Alice questioned everything she saw in Wonderland.

The story is always fast-paced and imaginative, but maybe it’s a little too imaginative. Skeptics may prefer something a bit more grounded . (Humorous fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-239912-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around...

THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE

Cooler-than-cool newcomer Styx Malone takes the more-sheltered brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene on a mischievous, path-altering, summer adventure of a lifetime as they embrace the extraordinary possibilities beyond the everyday in rural Indiana.

Readers may think an adventure such as they’ll find here wouldn’t be possible in the present day; this story takes place outside, where nature, know-how, creativity, and curiosity rule. Creeks, dirt roads, buried treasures, and more make up the landscape in Sutton, Indiana. Younger brother Caleb narrates, letting readers know from the outset that he’s tired of his dad’s racially tinged determination that they be safely ordinary: “I don’t want to be ordinary. I want to be…the other thing.” With Styx Malone around, Caleb and Bobby Gene will sure figure out what that “other thing” can become. The three black adolescents are enchanted with the miracle of the Great Escalator Trade, the mythic one-thing-leads-to-another bartering scheme that just might get them farther from Sutton than they’ve ever dreamed. As they get deeper and deeper into cahoots with Styx, they begin to notice that Styx harbors some secret ambitions of his own, further twisting this grand summer journey. “How do you move through the world knowing that you’re special, when no one else can see it?” begs the soul of this novel.

Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around them, striving to be more otherwise than ordinary. Please share. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

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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