Moving and buoyant, an insightful tale of grief, loss, and resilience.

WILLA AND THE WHALE

In the wake of her mother’s sudden death, Willa navigates a new course with her blended family and friends on an island off Washington state, with the help of a humpback whale.

After her parents divorced three years ago, Willa moved to Japan with her marine biologist mom. Now back on Tupkuk Island, Willa, 12, struggles to adapt to her dad, new stepmom, three younger stepsiblings, and new baby. When she’s on a welcome-home, whale-watching cruise with her dad, a humpback breaches close by and speaks to her. Willa, an exceptionally well-informed marine enthusiast, is enchanted. When Willa calls her from the beach, Meg, a mature female who’s birthed and nurtured offspring of her own, offers a sympathetic ear and valuable advice on reinstating her friendship with Marc, her former best friend, coping with an overbearing, competitive classmate, and managing the mortification of being among the slowest on the swim team. Most of all, Meg’s there when Willa needs to pour out the grief that overwhelms her. Willa’s journals and many marine references express her passion for the ocean while introducing fascinating, lesser-known wonders of the deep. Latinx Marc and his family excepted, the likable, rounded human characters are presumed white. Mysterious, amazing, threatened, but enduring, the ocean itself conveys the enormity of grief and possibility of healing; plausible, appealing Meg’s especially engaging. As Willa says: “everyone should definitely have their own whale.”

Moving and buoyant, an insightful tale of grief, loss, and resilience. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62972-731-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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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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