A richly satisfying story saturated with color, adventure, and heart.

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JOURNEY OF THE PALE BEAR

The lives of a boy and a captured polar bear intertwine in this middle-grade historical novel.

Historic documents show that 13th-century king Henry III of England kept a “pale bear” in his menagerie in the Tower of London, a gift from King Haakon IV of Norway. Fletcher takes this spare fact and embroiders a stupendous coming-of-age tale stuffed with adventure and laced with deeper questions. Her protagonist is 12-year-old Arthur, a Welsh-born boy who has run away from the farm in Norway where he lives with his mother, bullying stepbrothers, and tyrannical stepfather to try to get back to Wales to claim his birthright. A series of believable circumstances moves Arthur onto the ship transporting the polar bear to England after King Haakon’s disgraced doctor—who is charged with delivering the gift safely or else—discovers that Arthur is able to soothe the bear. Heart-pounding adventures involving shipwreck, pirates, and escape combine with themes of belonging, trust, loyalty, and freedom to keep readers swiftly turning the pages, while the exquisite worldbuilding details will make them feel they are sailing aboard a Scandinavian keel or walking the streets of 13th-century London and Bergen. Fletcher brings the story to a poignant but not fairy-tale-happy ending, suffused as it is by the mature (so apt for a coming-of-age story) questions raised about what freedom actually is. All characters appear to be white.

A richly satisfying story saturated with color, adventure, and heart.   (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2077-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

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The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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