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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A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders.

TIGER BOY

When a Bengali boy finds and saves a tiger cub from a man who wants to sell her on the black market, he realizes that the schoolwork he resents could lead to a career protecting his beloved Sunderbans island home.

When the not-yet-weaned cub escapes from a nearby reserve, Neel and many of his neighbors join the search. But some are in the pay of greedy Gupta, a shady entrepreneur who’s recently settled in their community. Even Neel’s father is tempted by Gupta’s money, although he knows that Gupta doesn’t plan to take the cub back to the refuge. Neel and his sister use the boy’s extensive knowledge of the island’s swampy interior to find the cub’s hiding place and lure it out so it can be returned to its mother. The Kolkota-born author visited the remote Sunderbans in the course of her research. She lovingly depicts this beautiful tropical forest in the context of Neel’s efforts to find the cub and his reluctance to leave his familiar world. While the conflicts resolve a bit too easily, the sense of place is strong and the tiger cub’s rescue very satisfying. Pastel illustrations will help readers envision the story.

A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders. (author's note, organizations, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-660-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.

HOW TO SPEAK DOLPHIN

Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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