Infused with magical realism and some quirky capers but may struggle to find an appropriate audience.

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SCRATCH

A NOVEL OF MAGIC

A YA novel about a pet cat with magical powers.

Janson (Mal Practice, 2013) tells the tale of a cat whose instincts and mysterious powers create both havoc and harmony for the family with whom he lives. It all begins with Mildred, who’s surprised to be scratched by Onyx, her otherwise loving cat. The scratch is bad enough to warrant a visit to the hospital, where they are fortuitously able to diagnose her cancer and treat her before the disease can spread. Onyx goes off to live with Mildred’s niece Sally and her grandnieces Bridgette and Renee, who are especially taken with the black cat. Onyx spends a lot of time staring through neighbor Gladys’ window and then, out of the blue, he scratches the poor woman. Once again, a trip to the hospital is in order, and once again, it’s just in the nick of time to save Gladys from cancer. The otherwise friendly cat goes on to scratch unsuspecting folks, along the way solving problems both mental and physical. It’s clear that, more than his hapless owners, the cat seems incredibly aware of what’s going on in the world around him; in his own way, he protects them and their friends and helps make the world a little better. There’s no clear protagonist in this narrative that, despite some uneven pacing, moves along fairly quickly. Described as a YA novel, the episodic story feels more like a middle-grade book, with its 12- and 13-year-old characters often referred to as “young ladies.” However, some strong language—and the fact that about half the book focuses on the lives and interactions of the girls’ parents—means this book doesn’t fit neatly into any genre. At times, 12-year-old Renee acts younger, as when she exclaims, “We had to give them our fingerprints, Dad!” to which her father quips about making sure she gets them back.

Infused with magical realism and some quirky capers but may struggle to find an appropriate audience.

Pub Date: July 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-0578142494

Page Count: 200

Publisher: JM Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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