WONDROUS REX

Seven-year-old Grace knows a great many words, but she can’t bring herself to string them together on paper.

In her eyes, this gift is unique to her writer aunt, Lily, with whom she spends her afternoons. Lily, however, has found herself bereft of ideas, and out of desperation she puts out an ad for a writing assistant. Enter Rex: a dog whose apparent oddities cleverly conceal a magic that, while unexplained, is quietly remarkable. Rex inspires Lily almost immediately, and the two find happiness in their new partnership. Similarly, Rex inspires Grace to turn her words into stories. Her reservations will feel familiar to any fledgling pen-pusher: not knowing how to write what she feels, how to start, or how to press on. Those reservations extend into her everyday life, as it fills and changes in ways she never foresaw, but her small network—loving (if busy and often absent) parents, the wondrous Rex, Lily and her writing group, the encouraging teacher Ms. Luce, and steadfast, unflappable Daniel, Grace’s best friend—remains by her side throughout her writer’s journey. MacLachlan spins from simple words an enigmatic, gentle, but perhaps too succinct tale. While Grace’s first-person narration doesn’t quite ring true to her young age, (a lack of contractions makes the prose oddly formal), charmingly scratchy pencil sketches scattered throughout mitigate this alienating effect. The only physical descriptions to be found are attached to the animal characters.

Sweetly magical. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294098-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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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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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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