Whether read as a fable with African roots or as an allegory, this is a handsome treatment of a memorable tale.

HOW THE LEOPARD GOT HIS CLAWS

When the dog's coup deposed King Leopard, the former ruler of the animal world exiled himself, returning with claws and sharp teeth of his own to govern by terror instead of with his previous gentle kindness.

This literary fable by the internationally eminent Achebe (based on a story by Iroaganachi and including a poem by Christopher Okigbo, killed in Nigeria’s civil war), reflects the secession and return of Biafra in the late 1960s. First published here in 1972, it has been beautifully re-illustrated by GrandPré, famed for her Harry Potter covers. These lush acrylic paintings have both texture and depth. Presented full-bleed across two pages or in rough rectangles set on white space, with bits extending beyond the edges, they tend to be dark and crowded with animals, whose expressive faces and bodies support the action. Each spread includes a decorative band of sharp triangles, a tooth-and-claw motif. Halfway through the story, the dog and not-yet-armed King fight fiercely, each glowing with orange battle heat. The conclusion explains the harshness of the jungle and the bond between dog and man, a satisfying ending for young readers unlikely to know or be ready for the political background.

Whether read as a fable with African roots or as an allegory, this is a handsome treatment of a memorable tale. (Picture book. 7-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4805-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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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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