A remarkable cast and pleasantly snowy backdrop elevate this quiet mystery.

OXBOW ISLAND GANG: WINTER CROWS

WINTER CROWS

In this third installment of Chalmers’ middle-grade series, youngsters investigate thievery and avian deaths during a winter storm.

Eleven-year-old Berend “Bear” Houtman looks forward to a week on Oxbow Island in Maine—notwithstanding the impending blizzard—because it means spending more time with his beloved grandmother Sally Parker and tween friend Olivia Anaya. Unsurprisingly, the vicious December storm buries the island in three feet of snow and knocks out power, turning a simple trip to a local store into an arduous expedition. This doesn’t stop Olivia, however, from going ahead with a planned fundraiser at a local restaurant.She hopes to raise money for more accessible trails for such townsfolk as her dad, Victor, who’s used a wheelchair since suffering a major injury six years ago. The fundraiser gets a good turnout of townsfolk, who fill a giant pickle jar with donations, but later that night, the jar mysteriously disappears. Around the same time, Bear runs across dead crows in the area and suspects that someone is purposely killing them. He’s determined to track down the perpetrator while also helping Olivia hunt for the donations thief. Bear has a suspect in mind in each case but needs to find solid proof before he heads back home to Massachusetts. The snowy setting in Chalmers’ book sets an irresistible mood, and as characters trudge through snow and wrap themselves in quilts, readers may feel compelled to slip on an extra pair of socks themselves. As the author sublimely writes, “With each gust of wind, sparkly snow drifted from the tree branches onto their heads.” Bear is immensely likable, even when whip-smart Sally and Olivia set him straight after he leaps to conclusions. The mystery is sound, although the kids do little in the way of piecing together clues. The story perfectly captures a close-knit community, as do Hogan’s fine black-and-white illustrations, which depict such things as a cozy woodstove, surrounding woods, and handwritten notes on storefronts.

A remarkable cast and pleasantly snowy backdrop elevate this quiet mystery.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 185

Publisher: Maine Authors Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2022

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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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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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