An unsubtle and unengaging attempt to educate children on border issues.

THE CHUPACABRAS OF THE RÍO GRANDE

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 4

Uchenna and Elliot join Professor Fauna on a trip to the southern border to rescue the mythical chupacabras.

In this borderland adventure of the Unicorn Rescue Society, Peruvian Professor Fauna whisks Uchenna and the ever reluctant Elliot out of class and flies them down on a dilapidated plane to Laredo, Texas. The trio’s mission is to rescue a baby chupacabra, whose pack’s feeding pattern has been disrupted by a border wall. In this fourth installment of the series, Gidwitz seeks to provide credibility and authority on border topics by bringing on Mexican-American author Bowles as a co-writer. However, their effort to incorporate complex topics—such as environmental and immigration issues—into an otherwise formulaic and predictable plot falls short, as the complexities of border life are constantly pointed out and explained by adults. As in previous installments, one of Professor Fauna’s ex-colleagues makes an appearance to aid the group in thwarting whatever species-endangering scheme the Schmoke brothers may have concocted. The encounter between Dr. Cervantes, a Mexican-American professor teaching at Texas A&M, and her former mentor creates tension between the adult characters, forcing the children to become spectators who simply learn and imitate the correct behaviors from adults. Uchenna presents black and Elliot, white.

An unsubtle and unengaging attempt to educate children on border issues. (Fantasy. 7-12)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3179-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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