Stunning.

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An early adolescent boy who lives with his parents on their farm during the Dust Bowl tells his story in this picture book.

In 1935, Calvin, the white narrator, is 12. He lives with Ma and Dad (both also white) on a farm on a prairie that has become, because of the four-year drought, a land of starving cattle, withered crops, and dust storms. Calvin’s father, discouraged but clinging to hope, tells him, “It’s gonna be better next year.” But it doesn’t get better for four more years—until 1939—when the rains finally come. By then Calvin’s parents have had enough, and to Calvin’s dismay, they pack up and leave. Now 16 and realizing, “I love what I’ve hated for so long,” Calvin stays behind to farm the land in the more sustainable ways he has learned about during the drought. Vander Zee’s poetic narrative, with its precise distillation and keen perception, brings the poverty and heartbreak of this time powerfully forward, while the story’s undercurrent of perseverance, strength of character, and, ultimately, respect and stewardship of the land gives it hope. Kelley’s magnificent, colorful, black-outlined illustrations flawlessly convey the grandeur of the land as well as the awfulness of that time. The book’s overall design is stellar, each page a visual tour de force, balancing white space, words, and illustration.

Stunning. (author’s note) (Picture book. 8-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-56846-282-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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