Sentimental, somewhat soggy, not very real. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

PIXIE PUSHES ON

A Midwestern farm girl deals with the upheaval of her mother’s death and her sister’s polio diagnosis.

Prudence, called Pixie by her older sister, Charlotte, and her grandfather, can’t believe she has to start fifth grade with Miss Meany-Beany for a teacher and without her sister’s protection. Last winter, after Mama died, the girls and their father moved to their grandparents’ farm. Then, in late summer, Charlotte contracted polio, just like President Roosevelt. Charlotte stays nearly a year at a hospital in far-off Indianapolis while Pixie learns to get along without her sister, making friends with a boy whose older brother is fighting in the war, coming to appreciate Miss Beany, and raising an orphan lamb. Pixie is a pleasant character, and her affection for her sister seems genuine, but the other emotional arcs in the story—Pixie’s blaming herself for her sister’s illness and most of Pixie’s interactions with her family and friends—feel somewhat forced and predictable. Keeping Charlotte offstage for nearly all the book makes her feel more like a plot device than a character—and why does Charlotte write letters to Pixie only when family members can hand-deliver them instead of putting them in the mail? Wartime details are sometimes missing or inaccurate. There’s no mention of gas rationing, for example, or how the war required farmers to grow more crops with fewer laborers and brought general prosperity to those who farmed.

Sentimental, somewhat soggy, not very real. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51516-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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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