A heartwarming call and response.

GRACE FOR GUS

Based on a short film by Bliss’ son, Alexander, this nearly wordless graphic novel follows a seemingly quiet second-grader through an eventful 24 hours.

The narrative opens in Grace’s diverse classroom, where her teacher, a black man, reminds students about contributing to the “Buddy Fund” to purchase a companion for Gus, the guinea pig. The light-skinned protagonist sports a black pageboy and wears round glasses; they are opaque except when she greets Gus, at which point a double-page–spread close-up shows the affectionate creature reflected in her lenses. After dinner with her two dads (both pale-skinned), Grace grabs her violin case and sneaks out her bedroom window, the Manhattan skyline visible in the distance. The multitalented heroine busks for tips in the subway station, draws caricatures on Fifth Avenue, and performs pole gymnastics on the train home. Children and adults will enjoy perusing the sequential panels, designed in various sizes to control the pace. There is plenty to discover and chuckle over, from cartoon and literary characters (Charlie Brown, Nancy, Tintin) and cultural icons (Vincent van Gogh, Alfred Hitchcock, Donald Trump, Patti Smith) to physical comedy, humorous book titles, and clever signs (“Rump Tower”). Dramatic diagonals, beautiful contrasts in lighting, and a joyful vibrancy pervade the scenes drawn in ink by Bliss and digitally colored by Young. There is much rejoicing at the overflowing classroom coffers—and the goal for Gus is realized.

A heartwarming call and response. (Graphic fiction. 5-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-264410-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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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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