A charming and vibrant debut fantasy.

THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ

A Cuban American boy who can speak to animals moves to a new town where he faces off against a dangerous witch with a nefarious plan.

Twelve-year-old Nestor Lopez has moved five times in the past few years while his military dad is deployed (now in Afghanistan). When Nestor and his mother move in with his abuela in New Haven, Texas, his plan is the same as always when getting to a new place: unpack just the essentials, avoid making friendships he can’t sustain, and keep his ability to talk to animals a secret. But the plan takes a turn when Nestor becomes friends with schoolmates Maria Carmen and Talib just as his abuela falls under suspicion for the mysterious animal disappearances in the woods. Nestor needs to use his powers—with a little help from his animal and human friends—so he can prove his grandmother’s innocence and defeat the real culprit, a mythical tule vieja who steals powers from animals. Debut author Cuevas reinterprets the tule vieja legend from Panama and Costa Rica to tell a story about a boy who deeply feels the burden of being “man of the house.” The importance of community and working together are deftly explored alongside Nestor’s longing for a more stable life, preferably with his dad by his side. Maria Carmen is Latinx; Talib’s name suggests Middle Eastern heritage.

A charming and vibrant debut fantasy. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-31360-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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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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