Clever wordplay, wonderful character banter, and stinky humor make this outing another giant success.

GIANT TROUBLE

From the Hamster Princess series , Vol. 4

Hamster princess Harriet faces a big problem in this “Jack and the Beanstalk” retelling.

Harriet and her loyal quail steed, Mumfrey, have been cliff-diving—a magical ability gained in Of Mice and Magic (2016)—when they’re approached by a cloaked chipmunk peddling magic beans. Mumfrey loses patience during the pitch and eats one. The resulting flatulence prompts Harriet to camp outside the castle. A massive beanstalk towers above them by morning—Mumfrey had a nighttime bathroom break, and it appears that quail fertilizer’s potent. Harriet and Mumfrey follow harp music up the beanstalk and to a castle, where “harpster” Strings (front half hamster, back half harp, amazing biceps from strumming herself) has been enslaved by the giant. She wants freedom to start a metal band; no one will be surprised when Harriet volunteers as drummer. Harriet must save Strings, a nail-biting rescue that includes stealing—by way of chewing—one of the giant’s shoelaces, rank with years of giant toe sweat and funk. The cliff-diving comes in handy in the final confrontation with the giant, but the story’s real resolution comes from threatening to sue the chipmunk for the damage his unmarked bean caused. This is vintage Vernon, sly text punctuated by clean, comic-style illustrations that manage to make even goose (“Honk?”) and quail ("Qwerk qwerk qwerk, werk-qwerk, qwark") dialogue funny.

Clever wordplay, wonderful character banter, and stinky humor make this outing another giant success. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 7-12)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-18652-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS

This is rather a silly story, and I don't believe children will think it particularly funny. A paper hanger and painter finds time on his hands in winter, and spends it in reading of arctic exploration. It is all given reality when he receives a present of a penguin, which makes its nest in the refrigerator on cubes of ice, mates with a lonely penguin from the zoo, and produces a family of penguins which help set the Poppers on their feet.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1938

ISBN: 978-0-316-05843-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1938

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