An extraordinarily moving, powerful tale about the resilience of grace and the joy of friendship.

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Stuffed animals search for a long-lost friend in this debut literary fantasy for all ages.

The three inhabitants of well-appointed apartment 1K on New York City’s Upper West Side enjoy a fulfilling life of work, walks in the park, good food, and warm friendships. It’s a setup as cozy as themselves—all stuffed animals or, as they call themselves, wawas. Mr. Rabbit is an artist; Benny the Bunny is a writer; and Dr. Ursa, a bear, has a medical practice. One day, their comfortable routine is upended when Custerd, a “shockingly orange” cat wawa and a childhood friend of Benny’s, makes an unexpected visit. Though usually a bouncing, confident sort, Custerd has been feeling empty lately. His therapist believes he must search for Rogo, his and Benny’s stuffed lion companion from the old days, who went missing 25 years ago in Australia. Mr. Rabbit, Benny, and Custerd head for Sydney, where they learn that after becoming separated from his boy, Rogo went on a walkabout (or, as kangaroos call it, a “hop-about”). With some Australian wawa companions, the friends’ hunt for Rogo brings them to a mysterious, forbidding fortress in the Outback that will test their courage, love, and ingenuity. Colin Krainin achieves something remarkable in his accomplished and poignant novel, giving a profound emotional and spiritual range to his stuffed-animal characters. They’re undeniably cuddly, appealing, and kind yet acutely aware of loss, which in turn is tempered: “But shining through the melancholy there often came, as sudden as the first aching sprouts of spring, a kind of grace.” Similarly, Custerd understands human evil as the desperate, dangerous refusal to be vulnerable. Debut illustrator Joan Platek Krainin’s charming pencil drawings capture the wawas’ cuteness but less so their pathos.

An extraordinarily moving, powerful tale about the resilience of grace and the joy of friendship.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-691066-90-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crowell Creek Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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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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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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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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