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THE SECRET BATTLE OF EVAN PAO

A thoughtful and timely read.

A Chinese American middle schooler struggles to adjust to life in an insular, mostly White town.

Sixth grader Evan Pao has a gut instinct for telling when things don’t add up and people are being less than honest. This proves useful when Evan, his divorced mother, and big sister relocate from California to the Virginia town where his Uncle Joe lives, fleeing a scandal involving his dad. Battlefield Elementary takes a lot of getting used to: Not only does Evan’s teacher, Mrs. Norwood, constantly talk about the Confederacy and local Civil War history, Evan is also the school’s only Asian American student. When class bully Brady asks if Evan has the “China virus,” he is rattled—and wonders if things will get even worse. Meanwhile, Mrs. Norwood implies that Evan shouldn’t take part in the annual school event celebrating the Civil War era because of his race. Evan surprises everyone when he researches and shares information about Chinese soldiers who fought on both sides during the Civil War. Shang’s compassionate prose alternates among multiple perspectives. Evan’s implied anxiety is sensitively portrayed, illustrating how hard it is to be the new kid in town, particularly if you stand out. The text’s empathy extends to Brady in ways that will encourage readers to pause before making snap judgments. The novel also handles with nuance questions about how uncomfortable history can be approached in classrooms and communities.

A thoughtful and timely read. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-67885-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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CHARLOTTE'S WEB

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

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A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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THE ONE AND ONLY RUBY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 3

Certain to steal hearts.

In this follow-up to 2020’s The One and Only Bob, Ruby the elephant is still living at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary.

She’s apprehensive about her Tuskday, a rite of passage for young elephants when she’ll give a speech in front of the rest of the herd. Luckily, she can confide in her Uncle Ivan, who is next door in Gorilla World, and Uncle Bob, the dog who lives nearby with human friend Julia. Ruby was born in an unspecified part of Africa, later ending up on display in the mall, where she met Ivan, Bob, and Julia. The unexpected arrival of someone from Ruby’s past life on the savanna revives memories both warmly nostalgic and deeply traumatic. An elephant glossary and Castelao’s charming, illustrated guide to elephant body language help immerse readers in Ruby’s world. Goofy, playful, and mischievous Ruby is fully dimensional, as she has shown her bravery during the many hardships of her young life. Applegate deftly tempers themes of grief and loss with compassion and humor as Ruby finds her place in the herd. The author’s note touches on climate change, the illegal ivory trade, and conservation efforts, but the highly emotive framing of the story through the memories of a bewildered baby elephant emphasizes the impact of lines such as “ ‘in Africa,’ I say softly, ‘there were bad people,’ ” without offering readers a nuanced understanding of the broader context that drives poaching.

Certain to steal hearts. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780063080089

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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