A rousing adventure that introduces the issue of elephant trafficking in a gentle and appropriate way.

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TUA AND THE ELEPHANT

How do you hide an elephant?

Inspired by a trip to an Asian elephant refuge, Harris transports young readers to the lands of curry, banana leaves and the bustling Chiang Mai Night Market. Little 9-year-old Tua, which means “peanut” in Thai, finds a young, but very large captured elephant. Their connection is instant. But this elephant is chained, used as tourist bait. Tua must face dangers including poachers and treacherous rivers as she steals away with the young elephant, pursued by two menacing mahouts, or elephant drivers. Naming her new friend Pohn Pohn, Tua escapes with her to a Buddhist temple, where she learns of an elephant preserve in the mountains. Will Tua be successful in getting Pohn Pohn into the preserve? For a book aimed at middle graders, kudos on three fronts: providing a child’s-eye view of Thailand with foreign words to be decoded in context, creating a strong connection between the elephant and the girl and using a simple vocabulary to introduce the complex issue of poaching. Yoo’s multiple illustrations, done in charcoal and linoleum block prints, catapult the story even higher. Foreign yet familiar, the action is often humorous and reinforces the sweet bond between pachyderm and “peanut.”

A rousing adventure that introduces the issue of elephant trafficking in a gentle and appropriate way. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7781-7

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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Quirky and imaginative—postmodern storytelling at its best.

THE VERY, VERY FAR NORTH

Friendly curiosity and a gift for naming earn a polar bear an assortment of (mostly animal) friends, adventures, mishaps, and discoveries.

Arriving at a northern ocean, Duane spies a shipwreck. Swimming out to investigate, he meets its lone occupant, C.C., a learned snowy owl whose noble goal is acquiring knowledge to apply “toward the benefit of all.” Informing Duane that he’s a polar bear, she points out a nearby cave that might suit him—it even has a mattress. Adding furnishings from the wreck—the grandfather clock’s handless, but who needs to tell time when it’s always now?—he meets a self-involved musk ox, entranced by his own reflection, who’s delighted when Duane names him “Handsome.” As he comes to understand, then appreciate their considerable diversity, Duane brings out the best in his new friends. C.C., who has difficulty reading emotions and dislikes being touched, evokes the autism spectrum. Magic, a bouncy, impulsive arctic fox, manifests ADHD. Major Puff, whose proud puffin ancestry involves courageous retreats from danger, finds a perfect companion in Twitch, a risk-aware, common-sensical hare. As illustrated, Sun Girl, a human child, appears vaguely Native, and Squint, a painter, white, but they’re sui generis: The Canadian author avoids referencing human culture. The art conveys warmth in an icy setting; animal characters suggest beloved stuffed toys, gently reinforcing the message that friendship founded on tolerance breeds comfort and safety.

Quirky and imaginative—postmodern storytelling at its best. (Animal fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3341-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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