Accomplished, lively, and heartfelt.

BEN Y AND THE GHOST IN THE MACHINE

From the Kids Under the Stairs series , Vol. 2

An emotionally charged, dynamic novel in verse.

Holt’s follow-up to 2020’s Benbee and the Teacher Griefer follows another character from the ensemble cast. This entry focusing on Ben Y, who prefers Ben to the full name Benita and is exploring gender identity, is accessible without exposure to the prior volume; although it picks up without much explanation of past relationships, the strong narrative style does all the heavy lifting. Reeling from the death of a sibling and the subsequent social fallout of “dead-brother-itis,” Ben Y retreats deeper into friendships, game worlds, and the escape provided by the Newspaper Typing Club led by the trusted Ms. J. Over the summer, in this safe space for divergent learners, close bonds formed between Ben Y, Ben B, Jordan, and Javier. At school, Ben Y wavers between feeling unseen and being picked on and takes bold steps to carve out personal space, including an interest in newcomer Ace. Ben Y also faces challenges as the bullish principal imposes limits on their school paper and becomes invested in punishing dress-code violations. This focused character study delivers layered attention to grief and self-exploration. Multiple formats, including chat messages in the Minecraft-like Sandbox, combined with extraordinary pacing make this a win for reluctant readers, while the humor and emotional reach will draw in anyone interested in middle-grade emotional realism. With minimal physical descriptions, names cue ethnic diversity.

Accomplished, lively, and heartfelt. (Verse novel. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4521-8321-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

CHARLOTTE'S WEB

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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