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

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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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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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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