THE REVENGE OF RANDAL REESE-RAT

Though a rational ratriot, Randal Reese-Rat can’t help being jealous and slightly embarrassed at the way Montague Mad-Rat both saved ratkind and stole his fiancé from him in A Rat’s Tale (1986). The wedding of Monty and Isabel is on hold until Aunt Elizabeth can bring cousin Maggie back from Africa, but the story here is not just of revenge, travel, and the rift between elite wharf rats and those rats that do things. No, the fun is in the magnificently ratty details, the subtle wordplay and in the chance to visit ratdom. Beginning in Senegal, with Elizabeth’s search for Maggie and moving away from the wharf and the Mad-Rats helps this sequel to avoid rehashing the original and yet it continues to be true to its antecedents. This is not classic quest fantasy with good versus evil but a more charming and lovable fantasy with bad doings by relatively good rats and good doings by relatively bad ones. Seidler is obviously having a lot of fun, even though the illustrations fail to compete with Marcellino’s originals and the story seems a whisker more scattered and less focused. From the Bronx Zoo to Senegal the animal world coexists cheerily alongside the almost invisible human world. Dormice, pack rats, and even elephants, chimps, and beavers play their part in the denouement as Randal Reese-Rat’s gradual winning of musical Maggie Mad-Rat’s affections impinges on his plans for revenge. Practically singing themselves at times, the lyrics of Maggie’s tunes carry the story forward, along with details of rat life such as feasting on ratatouille and toothbrushes for fur brushing. Loyally and lovably ratty. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-36257-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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  • Newbery Honor Book

BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE

A 10-year old girl learns to adjust to a strange town, makes some fascinating friends, and fills the empty space in her heart thanks to a big old stray dog in this lyrical, moving, and enchanting book by a fresh new voice. India Opal’s mama left when she was only three, and her father, “the preacher,” is absorbed in his own loss and in the work of his new ministry at the Open-Arms Baptist Church of Naomi [Florida]. Enter Winn-Dixie, a dog who “looked like a big piece of old brown carpet that had been left out in the rain.” But, this dog had a grin “so big that it made him sneeze.” And, as Opal says, “It’s hard not to immediately fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor.” Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal meets Miss Franny Block, an elderly lady whose papa built her a library of her own when she was just a little girl and she’s been the librarian ever since. Then, there’s nearly blind Gloria Dump, who hangs the empty bottle wreckage of her past from the mistake tree in her back yard. And, Otis, oh yes, Otis, whose music charms the gerbils, rabbits, snakes and lizards he’s let out of their cages in the pet store. Brush strokes of magical realism elevate this beyond a simple story of friendship to a well-crafted tale of community and fellowship, of sweetness, sorrow and hope. And, it’s funny, too. A real gem. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0776-2

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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