THE REVENGE OF RANDAL REESE-RAT

Though a rational ratriot, Randal Reese-Rat can’t help being jealous and slightly embarrassed at the way Montague Mad-Rat both saved ratkind and stole his fiancé from him in A Rat’s Tale (1986). The wedding of Monty and Isabel is on hold until Aunt Elizabeth can bring cousin Maggie back from Africa, but the story here is not just of revenge, travel, and the rift between elite wharf rats and those rats that do things. No, the fun is in the magnificently ratty details, the subtle wordplay and in the chance to visit ratdom. Beginning in Senegal, with Elizabeth’s search for Maggie and moving away from the wharf and the Mad-Rats helps this sequel to avoid rehashing the original and yet it continues to be true to its antecedents. This is not classic quest fantasy with good versus evil but a more charming and lovable fantasy with bad doings by relatively good rats and good doings by relatively bad ones. Seidler is obviously having a lot of fun, even though the illustrations fail to compete with Marcellino’s originals and the story seems a whisker more scattered and less focused. From the Bronx Zoo to Senegal the animal world coexists cheerily alongside the almost invisible human world. Dormice, pack rats, and even elephants, chimps, and beavers play their part in the denouement as Randal Reese-Rat’s gradual winning of musical Maggie Mad-Rat’s affections impinges on his plans for revenge. Practically singing themselves at times, the lyrics of Maggie’s tunes carry the story forward, along with details of rat life such as feasting on ratatouille and toothbrushes for fur brushing. Loyally and lovably ratty. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-36257-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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