Vintage Vernon humor and a cast so lovable it hurts.

LITTLE RED RODENT HOOD

From the Hamster Princess series , Vol. 6

The Hamster Princess takes on Little Red Riding Hood.

A small, sycophantic, adorable-voiced hamster girl wearing a bright red hood seeks out Princess Harriet for help, saying her grandmother is being terrorized by weasel-wolves. Although she is deeply repelled by the little hamster’s extreme cuteness, Harriet and her trusty companion, Wilbur, follow Red into the woods, where they find the weasel-wolves. They are acting suspiciously docile—but Red says to ignore them; it’s “the big one” who’s the problem. Their first encounter with the big one involves a badly spelled note and a drawing of Harriet with “little stink-lines,” but the second moonlit meeting is even stranger, as the big one is looking a lot more hamsterous and actually speaks (his name’s Grey). Grey explains that he was “born a weasel-wolf” but was “bitten by a hamster under the full moon,” making him a were-hamster. Probing reveals a shocking shared backstory between Grey and Harriet, and Wilbur’s hilariously ill at ease while Grey and Harriet bond. Grey’s looking for packs of weasel-wolves that have gone missing; it seems they vanish when Red and her grandmother enter an area. The jokes, both visual and textual, share space with the plot’s central conflict: Harriet must decide whom to trust—a hamster subject who annoys her or a hamster-eating monster she likes.

Vintage Vernon humor and a cast so lovable it hurts. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-18658-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message.

WILLODEEN

An orphan loner’s small town faces a hard future after it unwittingly disrupts a natural cycle.

Willodeen is lucky that elderly retired thespians Mae and Birdie took her in after the wildfire that killed her parents and brother, not only because they’re a loving couple, but because they let her roam the woods in search of increasingly rare screechers—creatures so vile-tempered and stinky that the village elders of Perchance have put a bounty on them. The elders have other worries, though: The migratory hummingbears that have long nested in the area, drawing tourists to the lucrative annual Autumn Faire, have likewise nearly vanished. Could there be a connection? If there is, Willodeen is just the person to find it—but who would believe her? Applegate’s characters speak in pronouncements about life and nature that sometimes seem to address readers more than other characters, but the winsome illustrations lighten the thematic load. Screechers appear much like comically fierce warthogs and hummingbears, as small teddies with wings. Applegate traces a burgeoning friendship between her traumatized protagonist and Connor, a young artist who turns found materials into small animals so realistic that one actually comes to life. In the end, the townsfolk do listen and pitch in to make amends. Red-haired, gray-eyed Willodeen is cued as White; Connor has brown skin, and other human characters read as White by default.

The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message. (Eco-fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-14740-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner

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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