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

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 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018


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


An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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