Chalk up another treat for Korman fans.


Barney was legendary for appalling acts of canine depravity until his recent death; two kids—Zarabeth, his (one) mourner, and Keenan, her at-first-skeptical new friend—investigate his possible murder.

Keenan misses his cosmopolitan life in Shanghai, where his mom and stepdad teach at an international school. Recovering from tuberculosis at his dad’s house on tiny Centerlight Island, divided between the U.S. and Canada, is beyond boring until he meets Zarabeth, with Barney’s well-behaved (but sadly disdained) replacement and colorful tales of famous Prohibition-era gangsters attracted to the quiet island’s largely unguarded international border; Tommy-Gun Ferguson, who built her family’s house, might have hidden his gold bullion on the island. When Keenan, now well, proves popular at his new island school, Zarabeth feels isolated. Centrelight’s few Canadian kids must attend mainland schools via ferry. Not incidentally, the island’s more-numerous American kids resent contrarian Zarabeth’s stubborn advocacy for anything-but-lamented Barney. Now snubbed by Zarabeth, Keenan looks into Barney’s death to appease her—and finds her suspicions well founded. Like the island’s two spellings, Zarabeth’s cross-border observations wryly assert Canadian cultural identity. She and Keenan, both presumed white, alternate narration and are good company. Vivid secondary characters commit spontaneous acts of hilarious mayhem—the unscheduled school-lockdown drill is one standout—though Barney’s extreme depredations (like destroying a Porsche and a house porch in one go) occasionally strain credulity. Readers need to buy such pivotal plot points.

Chalk up another treat for Korman fans. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-279886-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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A sympathetic, compelling introduction to wolves from the perspective of one wolf and his memorable journey.


Separated from his pack, Swift, a young wolf, embarks on a perilous search for a new home.

Swift’s mother impresses on him early that his “pack belongs to the mountains and the mountains belong to the pack.” His father teaches him to hunt elk, avoid skunks and porcupines, revere the life that gives them life, and “carry on” when their pack is devastated in an attack by enemy wolves. Alone and grieving, Swift reluctantly leaves his mountain home. Crossing into unfamiliar territory, he’s injured and nearly dies, but the need to run, hunt, and live drives him on. Following a routine of “walk-trot-eat-rest,” Swift traverses prairies, canyons, and deserts, encountering men with rifles, hunger, thirst, highways, wild horses, a cougar, and a forest fire. Never imagining the “world could be so big or that I could be so alone in it,” Swift renames himself Wander as he reaches new mountains and finds a new home. Rife with details of the myriad scents, sounds, tastes, touches, and sights in Swift/Wander’s primal existence, the immediacy of his intimate, first-person, present-tense narration proves deeply moving, especially his longing for companionship. Realistic black-and-white illustrations trace key events in this unique survival story, and extensive backmatter fills in further factual information about wolves and their habitat.

A sympathetic, compelling introduction to wolves from the perspective of one wolf and his memorable journey. (additional resources, map) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-289593-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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