A fragmented story that would have served better had it focused on Billie.


From the Dogs of World War II series

The fourth in Larson’s series about the Dogs of World War II shifts between a girl on the homefront and a Navajo Code Talker.

Leo, a young white Marine, has brought his Navajo friend Denny home with him from boot camp. As they hitchhike, Denny senses a whimper that leads him to a wounded stray dog the young men decide to take with them. At Leo’s home, his little sister, Billie, adopts the dog, naming him Bear. After the young men return to duty, the chapters shift between Billie and Denny. Orphan Billie (their mother is dead and their father abandoned them) has become a target for bullying, so she seeks companionship with Bear and her friend Tito, the young Mexican boy whose father manages her aunt’s ranch. Meanwhile, as Denny trains to be a Code Talker, he flashes back to his childhood time at boarding school. Well into the story, a jarring interlude from the dog’s perspective interrupts the story when he senses an old friend is hurt—this is Denny, who has been wounded in battle. The story is mostly Billie’s, and both Denny and Tito come across more as cultural informants than fully fleshed characters. Neither escapes stereotype: Denny sees Bear in a vision during battle, while Tito gives gardening advice and brings tortillas to the gringos.

A fragmented story that would have served better had it focused on Billie. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-545-84075-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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