A felicitous pairing of two children’s literature pros to encourage our sense of wonder.

A STRANGE PLACE TO CALL HOME

THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS HABITATS, AND THE ANIMALS THAT CALL THEM HOME

Poems in varied forms urge readers to marvel at animals living in surprising environments.

The prolific poet (Fireflies at Midnight, 2003) again celebrates the natural world, here describing 14 creatures surviving in unlikely places. From Humboldt penguins on arid South American coasts to foxes in cities, Singer points out the contrast between our expectations and their lives. Worms in ice, flies in oil, swimming songbirds and fish in the air…her choices range widely. Though the focus is their odd surroundings, she weaves in information about some of their interesting adaptations as well. Her poetry features judicious use of rhyme and alliteration. Some is free verse; others are written in traditional forms, described in an author’s note in the back. They’re set directly on double-page illustrations, collages of painted and textured papers, cut and torn, which, though reminiscent of Eric Carle and Steve Jenkins, have Young’s irregular lines, distinctive brushwork and soft colors. This is a book for enjoyment rather than information. An additional paragraph about each creature appears in the endnotes, but these don’t always answer the basic question of where it might be found. The author acknowledges some expert help but provides no source or index.

A felicitous pairing of two children’s literature pros to encourage our sense of wonder. (Picture book/poetry. 5-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4521-0120-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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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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THE FIRST CAT IN SPACE ATE PIZZA

Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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