A humorously illustrated convergence of fantasy and science but a disappointing tale in the era of #BlackLivesMatter.

HOW TO PROMENADE WITH A PYTHON (AND NOT GET EATEN)

From the Polite Predators series , Vol. 1

A colorful, zany how-to book from a Canadian author-illustrator pair with scientifically informative instructions for an excursion one should never take.

Narrator Celeste, a dapper, bow tie–and–red boot–wearing Madagascar hissing cockroach who promotes “very bad ideas,” declares herself particularly qualified to advise others on survival techniques since her species has persisted for 300 million years. To offer advice on how one can safely promenade with Frank, a 300-pound reticulated python, she chooses a brown-skinned boy, whom she dresses in knickerbockers and a top hat, as the python’s victim—a stand-in for “you,” the reader. As Celeste progresses through many scenarios to help this kid survive Frank’s adaptations for killing and eating prey, readers learn lots about pythons: their types, their physical characteristics, their adaptations for swallowing prey many times their size, fun facts about the smallest, longest, and heaviest pythons, and more. The vibrant, action-packed illustrations add both detail and humor. Problematically, though, this capricious cockroach plays with the life of a Black boy for her own entertainment while he has no agency: He never speaks or pushes back but executes all of Celeste’s directives despite clear danger to himself. Animal prey does finally enter the story, but it’s too bad animal rather than human prey wasn’t the choice throughout.

A humorously illustrated convergence of fantasy and science but a disappointing tale in the era of #BlackLivesMatter. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6658-2

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

CHARLOTTE'S WEB

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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