Beautiful photos, with an impact heightened (sometimes to somewhat dizzying altitudes) by the accompanying words.

ANIMAL ARK

CELEBRATING OUR WILD WORLD IN POETRY AND PICTURES

The Newbery medalist matches bursts of poetic commentary to dozens of dramatic close-ups, mostly of creatures classified as endangered or threatened.

Drawn from National Geographic’s Photo Ark project, which aims to portray examples of every creature in captivity, the photographs present vividly colored animals singly or in small groups, posed against plain white or black backgrounds. Some subjects are rendered with knife-sharp clarity and others with some softening of focus, but all are around the same relative size and display a presence as intense as their enhanced hues. Three gatefolds open up either to reveal a visual index or to expand the approximately three dozen large portraits in the main gallery with ranks of smaller, labeled images. Alexander invites viewers to compose haiku on the pictures; his own contributions are haikulike in language if not form: the three lines of “homes of courage / on humble backs / this is not a race” arc in turn over the shells of a row of ploughshare tortoises, for instance. They take lyrical flights even when their meaning is obscure, as for a pair of young pandas seen as “strong, yet gentle…black and white / championing human nature.” Animals “are counting on us to help them,” he writes, with more urgency than strict accuracy.

Beautiful photos, with an impact heightened (sometimes to somewhat dizzying altitudes) by the accompanying words. (author’s, photographer’s notes) (Informational picture book/poetry. 6-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2767-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face.

THE BAD GUYS

From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

Four misunderstood villains endeavor to turn over a new leaf…or a new rap sheet in Blabey's frenzied romp.

As readers open the first page of this early chapter book, Mr. Wolf is right there to greet them, bemoaning his reputation. "Just because I've got BIG POINTY TEETH and RAZOR-SHARP CLAWS and I occasionally like to dress up like an OLD LADY, that doesn't mean… / … I'm a BAD GUY." To prove this very fact, Mr. Wolf enlists three equally slandered friends into the Good Guys Club: Mr. Snake (aka the Chicken Swallower), Mr. Piranha (aka the Butt Biter), and Mr. Shark (aka Jaws). After some convincing from Mr. Wolf, the foursome sets off determined to un-smirch their names (and reluctantly curbing their appetites). Although these predators find that not everyone is ready to be at the receiving end of their helpful efforts, they use all their Bad Guy know-how to manage a few hilarious good deeds. Blabey has hit the proverbial nail on the head, kissed it full on the mouth, and handed it a stick of Acme dynamite. With illustrations that startle in their manic comedy and deadpan direct address and with a narrative that follows four endearingly sardonic characters trying to push past (sometimes successfully) their fear-causing natures, this book instantly joins the classic ranks of Captain Underpants and The Stinky Cheese Man.

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91240-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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