When the wild calls, will this good dog answer? For McKinley the malamute is a very good dog, one who takes his contract with his humans seriously: he assiduously guards his human family, especially the pup, Jack. He is also a politically astute dog: he is head dog of the Steamboat Springs dog pack. His retriever friend Aspen, had she the language of pop psychology, would call him a codependent dog: “You watch out for everybody but yourself.” His comfortable life is disturbed when a lamed wolf, Lupin, comes down out of the hills to recruit dogs to join her dwindling pack. McKinley feels drawn to her wildness, while at the same time remaining mindful of his doggy responsibilities. These become immensely more complicated when his pup (inspired by The Jungle Book and Julie of the Wolves) decides to try to run away and live with the wolves even as the human community gears up for a massive wolf hunt and an upstart Irish setter begins to challenge McKinley’s leadership. How can McKinley acquit his obligations to his pup, to Lupin, and to an abused greyhound whose escape sets the plot in motion, while at the same time preserving his position in the pack? Avi (The Secret School, p. 1021, etc.) by and large does a creditable job of keeping the many subplots going, although the action occasionally gets bogged down in discussions of the political doggy climate. The narrative is filtered through a dog’s-eye-view with occasional whimsical touches (streets have names like “Horse Smell Way”), but for the most part the text takes itself as seriously as McKinley does. Almost wholly absent from the story is a real exploration of the mutual affection that underlies the human-dog relationship; without this, McKinley’s decision to stay with his humans rather than follow Lupin is an intellectual, and ultimately unsatisfying, one. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83824-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Richard Jackson/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2001

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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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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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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