An engaging and thoughtful coming-of-age tale.



Two royal siblings—turned into rabbits—search for a unicorn spirit to reverse the spell, discovering who they are in the process.

In the prologue, Naso, the jerboa mouse who narrates this debut novel, explains that a human palace’s mural depicts “an odd-looking, skinny rabbit with a crown…holding a sword in the air. That is the Rabbit Princess.” The main story, told in present tense, concerns how she came to be. In the opening chapters, the widower Emperor lives with his two children, the Princess Annie, 12, and her younger brother, Crown Prince Pika, 10, in a great palace. There, the spoiled children, especially Annie, “torment the staff all day long.” When she has a young boy thrown in jail for failing to kowtow, it’s the final straw, inciting the villagers to rebel. The Emperor and his general are sentenced to execution, and Shaman Wu turns the children into their favorite stuffed animals, banishing them to the Snow Forest. Annie is now a skinny, yellow rabbit, and Pika, a short, chubby white one. They meet a friend in Naso, who explains that a “heartless and unforgiving” tiger spirit named Moyen rules a massive kingdom, excepting Cloud Mountain and Dragon Desert. Qilin, a unicorn and “the mother of all spirits,” lives in the Desert and could help the rabbits, but Moyen has war on his mind and special plans for Annie. The siblings have some animal and spirit allies, but the journey won’t be easy. Nevertheless, with courage, new fighting skills, and especially hope, the rabbits might be able to find the unicorn—and their purpose. In his book, Chen offers a well-written fable about growing up through confronting shortcomings and learning to be of service to others. The siblings’ transformations into living stuffed animals is a neatly symbolic way of showing how they’ve become alienated from their human nature. Annie has the longest way to go in dropping her selfish ways and accepting her metamorphosis as a path toward self-knowledge. At first, jailed with her brother, her insight stretches only as far as her immediate family. In a “moment of pure clarity,” she realizes “she just wants her family safe.” Later, she earns respect by her focus on healing and helping other animals. In addition, the novel’s setting is intriguing, with its mix of more modern culture (for example, the stuffed animals) and figures from Chinese legend (the unicorn). While often ruminative about subjects like moral choices and the nature of evil, the story also delivers exciting action scenes and bold descriptions; Moyen’s “stark yellow eyes look like dead demons burning.” Episodes of animals killing one another might be tough for tenderhearted readers to take. The author’s economic black-and-white sketches help readers visualize the siblings’ alterations and nicely capture the various animals’ personalities, such as a panda’s searching look.

An engaging and thoughtful coming-of-age tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73271-890-6

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Osani Studios, Inc.

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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