Young independent readers’ hearts will go out to the rescue dog in this engaging tale.

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THE LIFE OF GUS

THE DOG WITH THE BIG HEAD

Based on a true story, this debut chapter book tells one abandoned pooch’s story through his own eyes.

Gus wasn’t always a stray dog. When he was young, his name was Rex, and he loved his human, Timmy, very much. But things started to change for Rex when Timmy went to school and didn’t have time for the canine he once loved. After escaping the backyard to follow Timmy to a friend’s house, Rex was punished. Timmy knotted shoelaces together and tied Rex to a tree, abandoning the dog, first by ignoring him and then neglecting to feed him during the cold winter months. When his family moved, Timmy left Rex tied to the tree. Rex eventually broke free and became a street dog, desperately lonely until he met fellow stray Trixie. The two wished they could trust humans, but further cruelty—some boys fired a pellet gun at Rex—caused them to hide. Unfortunately, Rex’s health was failing; the shoelace still tied around his neck was making him sicker. He discovered it was hard to breathe and swallow. Luckily, kind strangers took him in, healed him, and made him a TV and internet star. Now named Gus, he and Trixie wait for their forever homes. In her simply worded, dog’s-eye-view narration, Roquemore-Maxwell doesn’t pull any punches when describing the brutality of humans. But the canine’s harsh reality is made bearable through his hopeful, loving worldview. His rescuers also bring light into the darkness that stray dogs face, and the author’s absorbing and moving story may inspire young readers to become motivated and tackle these problems. The images by debut illustrator Bordelon are sparsely spread throughout. They are more successful on the color cover than in the black-and-white linework, as the cartoonish style doesn’t match the seriousness of the content.

Young independent readers’ hearts will go out to the rescue dog in this engaging tale.

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4808-7419-0

Page Count: 43

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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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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