The struggle to face one’s fears and stand up for one’s values creates a compelling story.

MANATEE'S BEST FRIEND

A Florida girl with crippling shyness must find her voice.

Becca Wong Walker is assigned to work with two other students on a sixth grade science project. She dreads both the expected presentation and working with others: Their group seems so awkward, as it includes extremely shy bookworm Becca; Amelia Carlson, the talkative and confident new girl; and the class’s funny kid, Deion Williams. But bringing them together is their interest in Missy, the manatee who comes to Becca’s dock. To Becca, Missy has been her only friend for a long time—someone she can actually speak to without freezing up or feeling weird and alone. And now Missy has a new calf who is in great danger due to the speedboats and jet skis that run into these gentle creatures. Liu has created an inspiring story with excellent pacing centered on a budding activist finding her voice. Although the three main characters start out as common types, their project changes them. Navigating the dangerous environment of new friendships, Becca’s dread and fear express her palpable social anxiety on top of her worry for the manatees. Will she be strong enough to speak up to her classmates, the town council, and even her own father? Becca’s mother’s side of the family is cued as Chinese; other characters are minimally described.

The struggle to face one’s fears and stand up for one’s values creates a compelling story. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-66226-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life.

ODDER

A Monterey Bay sea otter comes of age.

Odder’s mom told her to stay away from sharks, humans, and anything else she didn’t understand, but after saving her friend Kairi from a shark attack, she encounters all three. Injured herself during the rescue, Odder ends up recuperating at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or Highwater as the otters call it, where she once lived as a young orphaned pup. Last time, the humans helped her reintegrate into the wild, but because of her injuries this time the outcome might be different. Soon Kairi is there too, stricken with “the shaking sickness” and having lost her newborn pup. Now Kairi is fostering a new pup, and soon one is introduced to an initially reluctant Odder in hopes that she will help raise it so it can return to the wild. The free verse effortlessly weaves in scientific information, giving Odder a voice without overly anthropomorphizing any of the animals. The natural appeal of sea otters will draw readers in, but the book doesn’t shy away from real-world threats such as predators, disease, and pollution. Loosely based on the stories of real sea otters rehabilitated at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this novel will give readers lots to talk about, but uneven pacing and a rushed ending may leave some unsatisfied. Charming black-and-white spot art captures the world and life of the sea.

Rich, naturalistic details will delight lovers of marine life. (glossary, author’s note, bibliography, resources) (Verse novel. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-14742-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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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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