This blend of history with mystery and fantasy with realism is a good find indeed.

The mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke becomes an engaging backdrop for a preteen experiencing her own losses.

Nell Dare has her summer all planned: she’ll take tennis lessons with her BFF and stay with her writer father in their New York City apartment while her botanist mother works on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. When her ever quarreling parents separate suddenly and her father leaves without a goodbye, the white girl must give up her dreams and help her mother study the “Mother Vine,” the oldest cultivated grapevine in America, perhaps even known to the first English colonists. In her quiet yet evenly paced narration, the preteen meets two new friends, both also white. She’s drawn to Ambrose, a Colonial re-enactor from England whose own father left and hasn’t returned, and bristles against Lila, a know-it-all local-history buff who searches for ghost activity related to the Lost Colony. Hoping to best Lila, Nell teams up with Ambrose to discover Lost Colony clues and entice her father to return and write about them. Interspersed throughout are diary entries from a member of the Lost Colony. Mounting evidence offers possible connections to the Lost Colony’s fate and Ambrose’s otherworldly relation to the colonists. Readers will have fun realizing the author of the diary entries long before Nell.

This blend of history with mystery and fantasy with realism is a good find indeed. (author’s note, historical notes) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5896-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016


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

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


Certain to steal hearts.

In this follow-up to 2020’s The One and Only Bob, Ruby the elephant is still living at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary.

She’s apprehensive about her Tuskday, a rite of passage for young elephants when she’ll give a speech in front of the rest of the herd. Luckily, she can confide in her Uncle Ivan, who is next door in Gorilla World, and Uncle Bob, the dog who lives nearby with human friend Julia. Ruby was born in an unspecified part of Africa, later ending up on display in the mall, where she met Ivan, Bob, and Julia. The unexpected arrival of someone from Ruby’s past life on the savanna revives memories both warmly nostalgic and deeply traumatic. An elephant glossary and Castelao’s charming, illustrated guide to elephant body language help immerse readers in Ruby’s world. Goofy, playful, and mischievous Ruby is fully dimensional, as she has shown her bravery during the many hardships of her young life. Applegate deftly tempers themes of grief and loss with compassion and humor as Ruby finds her place in the herd. The author’s note touches on climate change, the illegal ivory trade, and conservation efforts, but the highly emotive framing of the story through the memories of a bewildered baby elephant emphasizes the impact of lines such as “ ‘in Africa,’ I say softly, ‘there were bad people,’ ” without offering readers a nuanced understanding of the broader context that drives poaching.

Certain to steal hearts. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780063080089

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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