BROTHERS BELOW ZERO

Seidler takes on an age-old story line—jealousy and competition between two dissimilar brothers—and spins it into a survival story with a soft mystical edge. Tim Tuttle, the gentle hero of the novel, is constantly outshone by his younger brother John Henry. In fact, Tim confesses to his Great-aunt Winifred, an eccentric but wise oldster who speaks almost entirely in folksy sayings, John Henry is just naturally “better at everything.” The situation reverses when Tim takes up painting and turns out to have a genuine gift. John Henry is consumed with resentment, so much so that he plays a mean trick on his brother, defacing a portrait Tim painted and then blaming him. Upset because his parents don’t believe his denials and furious that his multitalented brother would “ruin the one thing Tim was good at,” the young artist jumps out his window and into the icy snow below, sustaining a concussion in the process. Here, the story changes gears, going from a low-key family drama to a middling children-in-jeopardy story, as first a dazed Tim, then Tim and John Henry, struggle to stay alive in the freezing cold. The slender novel can’t sustain all the ideas it takes on, and the focus on the parents detracts from the main plot at the end. Still, every child with a brother or sister will be able to relate to the core situation, perhaps learning that comparing oneself to others is as “useless as two tails on a dog” in the process. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-029179-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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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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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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