Art and text create a moving tale.

ELEPHANT JOURNEY

THE TRUE STORY OF THREE ZOO ELEPHANTS AND THEIR RESCUE FROM CAPTIVITY

Three elephants from the Toronto Zoo are moved to a sanctuary in California.

Toka and Iringa “roamed with their families in the warm, dry climate of southern Africa” before they were “captured and brought to a zoo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.” Thika, 10 years younger, was born at the zoo. The matter-of-fact, accessible text makes it clear that these monumental creatures were headed toward early deaths due to the combination of harsh weather and the stultifying zoo environment, triggering the transfer. Beautiful oil paintings with the softness of pastels—all double-page spreads on generously sized pages—capture important moments in the story: the different settings of southern Africa, zoo, and wildlife sanctuary; the excitement of protestors who finally convince authorities to transport the elephants to the Performing Animal Welfare Society; the convoy of trucks from Toronto to California; and many intimate moments among elephants. Particularly poignant: Toka has shyly moved from her transport crate to the PAWS elephant barn, where three resident elephants stand behind safety barriers. The elephants trumpet and wave their trunks at the newbie: “It was as if the elephants were old friends who had been reunited at last.” There is quite a bit of repetition in the endnotes but also further details, including a recounting of the two years following the successful 2013 transfer.

Art and text create a moving tale. (index) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-927485-77-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Ann Featherstone/Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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GRUMPY MONKEY FRESHLY SQUEEZED

From the Grumpy Monkey series

Grumpy Monkey moves from picture books to a graphic-novel chapter book, in which he tolerates his friends’ goofy antics during a group journey to an orange grove.

Divided into three chapters of cartoon-style comics, with bonus interludes in between, the book features Jim Panzee, the protagonist of the Grumpy Monkey picture-book series. He is on his relaxing Wednesday Walk, stress orange in hand, but little is quiet about his journey once his jungle friends appear. After the accumulation of unwanted companions causes Jim to squeeze his stress orange so hard that he destroys it, the group seeks a replacement, stopping for a papaya fight, a splash party in the water, and some swinging from vines. They eventually escape angry parrots with the only orange the parrots didn’t devour. There’s a good dose of potty humor: Leslie the giraffe responds to Norman the gorilla’s invitation to come along with “you bet your butt I do,” and two spreads are devoted to poop humor (with Jim as the butt of the joke). There’s also wordplay (a chapter called “Orange Ya Glad We Made It?”; Jim’s repeated mantra, “Squeeze, squeeze, mind at ease”; and a guide to speaking Jim’s nonsense language, in which the syllable ob is inserted before vowels in every word). That the book pauses for a “Primate Primer” with talking simians will be like pouring lemon juice on a cut for those readers who see in anthropomorphized monkeys a perpetuation of pernicious anti-Black stereotypes.

Disappointing. (Graphic fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30601-7

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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