Overall, a fine tale that will benefit from being sifted for all its meanings.

OLD WOLF

A modern-day fable intertwines the stories of a young boy and an old wolf.

Like all good fables, this one tells its story with minimal characterization and unabashed moral messages. Wolf Nashoba, an aging pack leader, is desperate to find food for his starving band after the long winter, especially since the brash young wolf, Garby, questions his leadership. Meanwhile, Casey, a just-turned-13-year-old human boy who excels at the video hunting game “Bowhunter,” is thrilled when he receives a real bow and arrow for his birthday. Nashoba’s and Casey’s stories collide when Nashoba leads a hunt—helped by wise, acerbic raven Merla—near Casey’s home. Casey, searching for a stray arrow, comes across Merla, who is helping Nashoba, injured during the hunt. On instinct, Casey shoots Merla and then is shocked as he realizes the finality of real-world killing. Although the animals speak to one another in quoted dialogue and exhibit humanlike thought processes, animals and humans do not enjoy mutually intelligible speech. The fable’s messages—touching on false pride, the facile violence of virtual reality, age and youth, the coexistence of species, the value of kindness, and a few others—are inevitably diluted by being so numerous, but happily, they offer gentle provocation for thoughtful readers. Floca’s black-and-white pencil illustrations, with their attentive, appreciative depictions of the natural world, add real depth and poignancy to the story.

Overall, a fine tale that will benefit from being sifted for all its meanings. (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9921-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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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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