This is straight-up series fiction, but it’s well-done, and mystery aficionados, especially those who love animals, will...

THE MYSTERY OF THE ZORSE'S MASK

From the Curious Cat Spy Club series , Vol. 2

Three middle school friends try to figure out who abused a zorse (horse/zebra cross) and why the owner’s adult son is so eager to get him back.

Faster paced and more involving than the series opener, the second Curious Cat Spy Club mystery gives Kelsey, Becca, and Leo, three classmates who have joined forces to protect animals and solve mysteries, another opportunity to use their smarts and cement their unlikely but believable friendship. The characters, though lightly sketched, are clearly differentiated. Kelsey, the lead protagonist and narrator, is so quiet she’s almost invisible to others, which gives her excellent cover to pursue her hobby of collecting secrets. Cheerful (at least on the surface) and outgoing Becca, whose divorced mother runs the Wild Oaks Sanctuary for animals, hangs with the popular girls, or Sparklers, and Leo is a whiz-kid loner. The plot kicks into gear when Caleb Hunter, a charming horse trainer, tries to claim Zed, the once-abused zorse now living at the sanctuary, along with Zed’s sparkly netted fly mask. After some slightly off-the-main-track plot twists and turns, the kids locate and reclaim the mask. But their suspicion of Caleb increases, culminating in a jeopardy-infused, suspenseful climax.

This is straight-up series fiction, but it’s well-done, and mystery aficionados, especially those who love animals, will find it entertaining and enjoyable. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1378-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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THE FIRST CAT IN SPACE ATE PIZZA

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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