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BRUNDIBAR

This brilliant and disturbing rendition of an old Czech opera honors history in a stunning piece of art. A small brother and sister need money to buy milk for their sick mother, but singing in the town square is impossible because bully Brundibar claims the territory. Adults throwing money at Brundibar’s “bellowing” can’t hear Pepicek and Aninku at all; when the children challenge him by turning briefly into bears, the masses declare “Call the cop!” and “No bears on the square! It’s the law!” Brundibar’s alarming song gets louder and scarier until Pepicek and Aninku run away. They hide in a gloomy alley (reminiscent of We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy) until 300 children arrive and help them triumph over evil Brundibar. The original opera, written in 1938, was performed by children in Terezin who were awaiting transport to Nazi death camps. Kushner’s stellar rhythmic text sticks to the opera’s storyline, while Sendak’s incredible illustrations sprinkle in horrifying historical details as well as references to earlier Sendak masterworks. Though there’s far more here than a simple metaphor, the occasional yellow stars on clothing and an “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign (recalling the entrance to Auschwitz) make the Holocaust unavoidably present for readers who recognize such symbols. Other readers will find comfort in the sunny beginning and end, but will still see darkness, danger, and Brundibar’s threat to return. Sendak and Kushner complement each other perfectly as they merge merriness with tragedy and political commentary. A heartbreaking, hopeful masterpiece with powerful implications for contemporary readers. (Picture book. 8+)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7868-0904-3

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Michael di Capua/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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THE ONE AND ONLY FAMILY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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