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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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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An inspiring sports story all the way to the buzzer.

WE ARE FAMILY

Basketball is life in Lorain, Ohio.

A group of seventh graders have different reasons for joining Hoop Group, an elite youth basketball program. Jayden, who lives in a tiny, cramped house with his mother and grandmother, desperately needs the money playing for the NBA would bring. Chris’ uncle made it out of Lorain and into the NBA, but he doesn’t share his uncle’s skills and can’t quite live up to his father’s expectations. Tamika’s dad was Hoop Group’s coach before Parkinson’s disease put the team’s future in jeopardy; she has a lot to prove and dreams of being the next Pat Summitt. Dex and his hardworking single mom are struggling with poverty, but he just loves the game––especially the Cleveland Cavs. And Anthony, frankly, doesn’t have much of a choice; it was either join this character-building group or face expulsion from school. A makeshift team of preteens with a lot on their plates, they discover as much about themselves (and one another) off the court as they do on it. The authors present a convincing argument about the value of basketball beyond points on the board and big contracts. The characters’ dreams are relatable along with the book’s universally valuable emphasis on hard work and perseverance. But the specifics about what it takes to make it in basketball and the fast-paced on-court action provide something special for young fans of the game. Main characters read as Black.

An inspiring sports story all the way to the buzzer. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297109-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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