The Tale of Despereaux9780763680893_p0_v2_s192x300
By Kate DiCamillo
Published by Candlewick Press
272 pages

This is an adventure story about a mouse who tries to save a princess from a rat who wants revenge for a broken heart. It also involves a poor servant girl who wants to be treated like a princess, and a rat who doesn’t like being a rat. Sound complicated? Not really.

The book is separated into four parts. The first tells the story of Despereaux, our petit mouse hero; the second about Roscuro, the revenge-seeking-rat who doesn’t like being a rat; the third is about the servant girl, Miggery Sow; and the forth part brings them all together.

Despereaux is a mouse who lives in the mouse city below the castle ground. But Despereaux isn’t your typical castle mouse. He refuses to scurry, eat paper, collect crumbs and stay away from humans like the other ordinary mice. Instead, Despereaux is adventurous, reads story books instead of eating them, doesn’t care about crumbs, and talks to people. In fact, he falls in love with a princess named Pea.  And for all this, Despereaux gets in real trouble with the rest of the mice community. They send him to the dungeon! Soon he learns that the princess is in trouble, and like a tiny knight in with a shining needle, he’s off to save her. I like Despereaux because he really cares about the princess, and is a brave little hero. Although the dungeon is dark and full of large, dangerous rats, he overcomes his fears and goes to save the princess.

The second main character in the story is Roscuro, Despereaux’s nemesis. He’s a rat who lives in the dungeon who, unlike other rats, likes the light. But, when he ventures upstairs out of the darkened dungeon to find the light, he causes a huge soup fiasco (yes, soup fiasco) that leaves him bitter and vengeful.

Then there’s Miggery Sow, a former farmer’s slave. She now works as a servant girl at the castle. Roscuro uses her as part of his plan for revenge, but she’s not a bad person. She’s just not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Finally, we have Pea, the beautiful princess who is full of qualities like compassion, empathy, and many other traits that most fairytale royalties have.  It sort of makes her character seem a bit too perfect. But she is important to the story.

I liked this story because of its sense of danger and adventure, yet it still is narrated with a soft, sometime humorous voice.

The tale of Despereaux is also a cute animated 2008 movie with Emma Watson and Robbie Coltrane. I enjoyed the movie, but it added, took out, and changed some of the minor and major details.

This is a great book for kids who like fairytales and adventures ages 8-11.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts 1 & 2cc
By J.K Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic inc.
308 pages

Harry Potter has been one of the world’s most favorite wizards since 1997, along with his friends, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and many others. From daily magic classes at a school for witchcraft and wizardry, to confronting the world’s most dangerous wizard, the trio’s many adventures have captivated fans for nearly three decades.

I personally have loved Harry’s world since I first began reading the Harry Potter series at age seven. When I heard that a sequel was being published, I begged my mom to make sure I could get a copy the minute it was released. We arrived at the bookstore at 8pm, long before the book’s midnight release, where they had prepared for the crowd with crafts and games. And, when I got The Cursed Child in my hands, I stayed up half the night and read it all! It was absolutely worth it!

So what’s the book about? Well, nineteen years after Deathly Hollows, Harry is now an Auror (a dark wizard catcher), Ron runs a joke shop, Hermione is none other than Minister of Magic, and the next generation of witches and wizards are students at our beloved Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!

The book, however, is not really about Harry. It’s more about Albus Potter and his struggle to live up to a family legacy he never asked for. As you may remember from the Deathly Hollows epilogue, Albus is Harry and Ginny’s second of three children. He and Harry have a hard time getting along and differences of opinions often lead to arguments. And, whenever Harry tries to fix things, things seem to get worse.

Despite being the son of the world’s most famous wizard (or, maybe because of it), fitting in and having friends at Hogwarts isn’t easy for Albus. His best friend Scorpius Malfoy doesn’t have many friends either. Albus’s family isn’t very comfortable about the friendship, as the Potters and the Malfoys were enemies as students at Hogwarts and during the war.

Because of a popular rumor, Scorpius is constantly accused of being Voldemort’s son. Albus and Scorpius don’t know it yet, but Voldemort’s real child might be on a quest to bring him back. Soon, the duo find themselves on a wild adventure traveling through time, learning how the smallest changes years in the past can ripple into big changes in the future. And when Albus and Scorpius try to go back again to fix their mistakes, it only gets worse.  It’s like the butterfly effect – one small change twenty years ago, can have unimaginable consequences today. This is actually one of the things I really loved about the story line.

This book is not written in the form of a novel like the other seven Harry Potter books. Instead, it is a play script published in book form. So, there are parts where you have to pay very close attention to every word to understand what is happening, while in other sections there is a lot of excess dialogue. Sometimes when they speak it is hard to understand what is happening, because there is no narrative voice to describe the actions. I think the story line seems more complicated as a play script because of all the talking. I would have preferred that the book had not been written as a script, because there are lots of places where helpful descriptions could have been added if it were a novel.

Two more things to note. First, if you are concerned about the violence or darkness in the story, don’t worry. It is no more violent or dark than the first Harry Potter book – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Second, there are multiple sections in the story that incorporate plots from the earlier Harry Potter books. You may not understand some of the references if you haven’t read at least the first four books in the series.

Overall, this is a thrilling look at a new generation of witches and wizards, plots and adventures, and friendships in the wizarding world. This book is for everyone 9 years and up, all the way to the oldest adults who love Harry Potter’s magical world.


Theodore Boone 1# – Kid Lawyer
By John Grisham
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
288 pages

This book is about a kid who wants to be a lawyer and a murder trial that’s full of twists and turns. It’s a story that revolves around the judicial system and about how lawyers and judges work.

Thirteen-year-old Theodore Boone’s parents are lawyers and own a law firm in the town of Strattenburg. Theodore spends lots of his time at the Strattenburg courthouse. He knows every police officer, judge, and bailiff in town. He already knows a lot about the law and sometimes even helps his classmates with legal questions. Someday, Theo wants to become a great lawyer or judge, like Judge Gantry, one of the characters in the book. But, for now, he likes to say he has his own office at the law firm, which is really an unused closet that he uses to do his homework in.

As the book begins, there is a big trial in town. Pete Duffy is being tried for murder. But no one actually saw the murder happen. Theo finds himself becoming involved in the case when he discovers that someone he knows has proof that Duffy committed the crime. The problem is that the witness is afraid to speak to the police because he is an illegal immigrant.

This is a really interesting story because even though Theo isn’t old enough to be a real lawyer, it doesn’t stop him from acting like one. For example, when one of his classmate’s dog runs away and is held at the pound, Theodore helps her get the dog back at the animal court. Also, when another classmate is worried because his parents are behind on their mortgage and the bank is threating to take the house, Theo explains to him about bankruptcy (that’s a court process that helps people and businesses get rid of their debts and repay their creditors).

Theodore was exciting, but he wasn’t a very complex character. I liked that he wanted to be a lawyer, but I wish he had had more of a personality. He wasn’t wooden, but the author could have told us more of what Theo was thinking (in the next book in the series, Theo’s character gets more developed).

There are six books in the Theodore Boone series.

By-the-way, the Theodore Boone website has lots of fun information about the legal system, weird laws, videos, and lots of other material.

Over all, I think this is a great book for all kids ages 9-13.



This is another one of my original short stories. In fact, it’s part of a book I’m working on.


The Council Meeting

By Phoebe Eckstein

Olivia and Sophie watched secretly from behind the banister at the top of the stairs. Down below, members of the council of Eres had just assembled in Sophie’s living room, actually her parents’, for an urgently called meeting.

“Yesterday, after the… incident I started gathering all of the information I could about the base,” said Kaivan, the oldest member of the council. “And knowing Xcalabi, I’m quite positive that he enchanted it so no one can enter uninvited.”

“So, you’re saying, no one can go into Xcalabi’s base undetected? We can’t send anyone in to learn what he’s doing?” Ms. Loretta asked exasperatedly.

“Well, I‘ve sent magical scouts to the base, and it turns out that his spell does not prevent everyone from going into the base.” Kaivan said, emphasizing the word everyone. “You see, I believe it only prevents adults, at least, adults from Kaliyah.” Then, as an afterthought, he added, “Though, I’m still not sure about adults from Earth,” as he slowly rubbed his right earlobe and looked off into space.

“Where is the base, anyways?” Ms. Loretta asked with a bit of apprehensive curiosity.

“Well, I’ve located it in Antarctica, near the south end of the Shackleton Range.” Kaivan answered absentmindedly, still rubbing his ear and thinking about sending adults from Earth. “This time of year it should be around 35 degrees below zero. Really quite cold! And snowy, I think. Or is it hail? You know, it might be a mix of both. I wonder how Xcalabi heats up his base. Magic or geothermal? I’m guessing—”

“Uh, excuse me Kaivan. You mean to say that we could send a child into the base?” Mr. Paxon interrupted curiously.

“Nej. Untinkable! Sendeeng a child on such a dangorous meeshon.” Absolute not!” Mrs. Kato scolded with her thick, authoritative accent.

“I was just kidding.” Mr. Paxon responded softly, although no one seemed to hear him.

“Actually, Paxon has the right idea. Sending a child might be the only way.” Kaivan said thoughtfully.

“Und you too? Vee are NOT sendeeng a child on this meeshon!” Mrs. Kato scolded, outraged and gripping the armrests of her chair as if trying to squeeze the last drop of water from a rock.

“We were only considering the idea, Madam Kato.” Kaivan said calmly.

“And you vill do no more zen conseeder it. I vill not allow it to happen!” Mrs. Kato exclaimed, her eyes nearly bulging from their sockets.

“And so it won’t.” Mr. Paxon muttered. “Meeting concluded.” He announced abruptly.

“Vat? You colled a meeting yust to deescuss sendeeng a child to Xcalabi’s base?” Mrs. Kato asked, outraged.

“Madam Kato, please.” Kaivan said calmly.

Mrs. Kato pursed her lips, but didn’t say anything.

As the council members slow rose and left Sophie’s house, Olivia and Sophie watched nervously from above. Everyone seemed tense, even scared.

Kaivan opened the door, then turned to thank Sophie’s parents. As he turned back toward the door, he quickly glanced in Sophie and Olivia’s direction and winked before slipping away.

Olivia looked at Sophie. Did Kaivan know they had spied on the council? Did he really just wink at them?

As they quietly snuck back to Sophie’s room, Sophie said eagerly, “That was a short meeting. But anyways, do want to go?”

“Go? Where?” Olivia asked.

“The circus!” Sophie said sarcastically. “No, Antarctica. You heard what Kaivan said. Only a kid could do it.”

“You’re not seriously considering this, right?” Olivia asked slowly.

“Yes, I am!” Sophie said stubbornly, slightly raising her voice.

“First of all, it’s dangerous,” Olivia said. “second, we could get in to big trouble, third, we could get hurt, fourth, Antarctica is a long way away, fifth, Kaivan said you could freeze to death, sixth—.”

“—In other words, it’ll be risky. But, you know that old saying, ‘What’s life without risk’?” Sophie asked.

“Yes, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean confronting the most dangerous magician in history.” Olivia countered.

“Well, you don’t have to go.” Sophie said tauntingly. “And, ask anyone I know. I am very stubborn.”

Olivia stared at her. She had no doubt that Sophie was stubborn. But, it couldn’t really happen. Right? Her parents would never in a million years agree to such an adventure. Then again, it could be an incredible quest.

“Well, if you’re going alone, then I guess I have to go with you.” Olivia said slowly.

“Oh, goody!” Sophie exclaimed and hugged her friend, lifting her off the floor.

At that second, the door opened. Ezra, Sophie’s younger brother, walked into the room.

“I want to go with you.” He said with a bit of a whine.

“What? We’re not going anywhere.” Sophie said sounding annoyed.

“Yes you are! You were just talking about it. I heard you,” Ezra said accusingly.

“Oh, Ezra, just leave us alone!” Sophie exclaimed.

“But I wanna go with you!” He insisted.

“No means no!” Sophie said.

“Well, I’ll tell dad, I’ll tell mama” He sang, looking quite smug.

“Well, maybe we should let him,” Olivia whispered into Sophie’s ear. “If he tells on us, well, then… I mean, If we go, that is.” Olivia continued whispering.

“Oh, we’re going.” Sophie grinned.

“Okay, fine, Ezra, you can come.” Sophie announced with a sigh.

“Awesome!” Ezra exclaimed. “We’re going to Antarctica! We’re going to Antarctica!” He sang as he jumped around the room.

“Ezra! Shush!” Sophie demanded. “Mom and dad will hear you.”

“When do we leave?” he asked, quiet once more.

“First thing tomorrow morning.” Sophie announced.

Olivia shook her head, and wondered what had she gotten herself into.


JanitorsJanitors, Book 1
By Tyler Whitesides
Published by Shadow Mountain
288 pages

This book is about two kids who get mixed up in a world of magic and school janitors, two things that normally don’t go together. Spencer lives an average 6th grade life.

One day, after an incident involving a bully drawing on his face and a bottle of magic soap, he starts seeing weird insect-like creatures roaming the school. He soon realizes that the only other people who can see them are the school janitors. The problem is that nobody believes him, except for Daisy, one of his classmates. Soon after, Spencer and Daisy get recruited by the Bureau of Educational Maintenance to return a magical object that the janitors at their school took from the BEM. The BEM is a government agency in charge of all public school janitors, and for making sure the janitors stop the insect creatures. But Spencer and Daisy soon find out that the BEM hasn’t told them quite everything.

Spencer is an earnest student who wants to learn, even if he falls asleep in algebra class. Many times throughout the book, he acts more mature than a typical 6th grader would. For example, he is always worrying about germs and washing hands, when most kids couldn’t care less.

Daisy is very different from Spencer. At the beginning of the book Daisy is very naïve, even gullible. I think the author exaggerated her gullibility too much that it was hard to believe. For example, she didn’t know what algebra was, so one of the other kids told her it was a sea creature with tentacles. And she believed him! Even though Spencer is the main character his personality in a little wooden, while Daisy’s personality is more developed.

One of the things I liked about this book, is that even though it’s a fantasy story, Spencer still has regular 6th grade problems. He still worries about bullies and not embarrassing himself. Although this is a fantasy story, there still is quite a bit of reality.

This is the first book in a series of five. I think the other books in the series have very funny names, like ‘Strike of the Sweepers’, and ‘Heroes of the Dustbin’.

I think boys and girls who like fantasy story ages 9-12 will enjoy this book.



Hi everyone! This month, instead of a book review, I have something different! I have an original short story! I decided to change it up because I thought it would be fun. So here it is!

A New Home for Cookie

By Phoebe Eckstein

W-w-where am I? It looks like a big shelf, but not like the one in Lidia’s room. How did I get here? It’s kind of cramped with toys, furniture, and- and all sorts of pots and pans. It’s really dusty. What is it all doing here? And why am I here? I was in a bag, and then I was suddenly here. Oh, Lidia! I miss you so much!

I remember when I first came to you. You were four years old. I was your new best friend, fresh from the toy store. You so loved my short, furry chocolate brown fur, big black eyes, and chubby face. I guess I still look pretty much the same, except for my left ear, which Mama sewed back on after the cat tried to play with me. You always took such great care of me. Now I also have that sky blue ribbon that you gave me all those years ago around my neck. Hanging from my ribbon is the small cardboard tag that says ‘COOKIE’. You wrote that in your best handwriting when you were six. Oh, I miss you Lidia …

We had so much fun playing together, and you always took me everywhere with you. Do you remember the times we made pillow forts on the couch? I was Captain Cookie and you were Marshall Lidia. We had to protect the fort from the evil Sorcerer Whiskers and the dangerous Pirate Coco. I know I was such a lucky bear to have someone like you, someone who cared for me so well. But what happened? It was soon after your fourteenth birthday, I remember you and Mama talking about me going to Charity. But, you never told me who Charity was. Will she come to get me?

Oh, wait! Someone’s coming. He doesn’t look like Papa. Papa always wore ironed collared shirts. This man is wearing an old gray T-shirt. Maybe he’s Charity? He’s picking me up! Wait, what happened? I can’t see! Oh no! I’m in a bag again. I don’t think I like bags very much.

I wonder where we’re going? Oh, what’s going to happen to me?  Where is Charity taking me? I hope I’m going back to Lidia. I miss her so much. Why did she send me to Charity? Did I do something wrong? Oh Lidia…

Hey, we stopped! What’s going on? Where am I? Look! There’s a tiny tear in the bag. I can see a room. I think it’s a little house. There’s a small bed in the living room, next to the kitchen. But there’s not much furniture here. It looks as if there’s only one window.

Someone’s saying something. They’re yelling for someone called Alison to look in a bag. Oh my! I hear running footsteps. Someone’s lifting me out of the bag. Ah! It’s a little girl, about the same age as Lidia was when I came to her. But she doesn’t look like Lidia. She has shiny, dark brown ringlets, much darker than Lidia’s hair, big brown eyes, and a cute button nose. She is wearing a simple lilac dress that doesn’t look like anything Lidia would have worn. But I like it. And look! She has dimples! I love dimples!

Oh! She squealed just like Lidia did when I first came to her. She must be Charity. She’s hugging me tight. It feels so good to be hugged again.

Wait! Someone just told Alison to go play outside. Maybe this girl isn’t Charity. This must be Alison! Well, that’s okay. I know I’m going to like my new home.

But I wonder what happened to Charity?


Pokémon Adventures: Diamond and Pearl – Platinum, Book 1
Story by Hidenori Kusaka
Art by Satoshi Yamamoto
Published by Perfect Square
202 pages

This book is a Pokémon comic book. Pokémon are like animals from a different world that come in all shapes and sizes. Pokémon have special abilities that they can use to fight. Some Pokémon engage in Pokémon battles, where two or more Pokémon fight using their special abilities (such as breathing fire, invisibility, or super speed). In the Pokémon world, they live in all different habitats, from the seas to the sky and anywhere on land. Some Pokémon live on their own in the wild, and some live with people like pets.

The illustrations in this book are done in manga style, which means they have large eyes and small mouths and noses. Manga is a Japanese cartoon art form that is commonly confused with anime, but anime is usually animated and manga is just pictures. Also, anime is usually in color and manga is usually black and white.

In this book, Pearl and Diamond (nicknamed Dia) are a comedy duo who use Pokémon in their skits. One day, they win a special prize at a comedy competition: a trip to the Peak of Mt. Coronet! Soon, Pearl and Dia find themselves as companions to a rich girl on an exciting quest to the top of Mt. Coronet. They have all sorts of adventures, mostly helping or using their Pokémon to fight other Pokémon.

The other main character is a rich girl called Lady. It’s not really her name, but Pearl and Dia call her that because that’s what everyone else seems to do. Lady is definitely spoiled. She doesn’t have any chores and her butler does everything for her. He even gets her outfits ready in the mornings. She’s hard to like because she seems a little stuck up.

I like comics because you can see the scenes play out. This is the first manga style comic book I’ve read and I really liked it. The pictures and story line were fun. But I did have one problem with the book. The first time I read the book, I got almost half way before I realized that I was reading it backwards! It didn’t make much sense. But I soon understood that this book had to be read from right to left. Also, you have to read the panels from right to left. This is because like almost all Pokémon books, shows, or movie, this book was originally written in Japanese. I am now ready to read my next manga book, the right way!

This book doesn’t introduce you to Pokémon very well, so kids who don’t already know what Pokémon are might not understand it. But, it is a great book for kids ages 8-12 who already like Pokémon!


Where the Red Fern Grows
By Wilson Rawls51QWK0WB8KL
Published by Doubleday (original publisher)
208 pages

This is a wonderful piece of fiction that takes place in the 1920s. The story, which was published in the early 1960’s, is about a special friendship between a boy and his two dogs and the adventures they share.

Billy is a determined young boy living near the Ozarks mountain range in Minnesota. His family lives in a small but comfortable wooden cabin in the woods just outside of town. What Billy wants most of all are two dogs, but not just any dogs. He wants two coonhounds. Whenever he goes to his grandfather’s store, he hears the men talking about dogs and hunting. They share hunting stories, some true and some far-fetched, and hearing the men talk and trade stories only makes him want hounds even more. So, when he finds an advertisement for Redbone Hound puppies, he is determined to save up enough money – even if it takes two years!

Once Billy gets his dogs, he starts training them to hunt and they go on many exciting adventures, such as chasing raccoons through the woods. Billy’s grandfather even enters them into a coon hunting championship. But their biggest adventure takes place when they meet a mountain lion.

This book is about perseverance and friendship. Billy spent more than two years doing odd jobs like selling fruit to earn enough money to buy the dogs. And he spent many months teaching them to become the best hunting dogs in the Ozarks. Also, it was obvious that Billy and the dogs loved each other. The dogs always shared their treats between them and waited for each other before eating them, and they always followed Billy everywhere.

This book actually has a sad ending. The author connects you to some of the characters, but then sad things happen to them. You don’t realize how much you care for the characters until the ending. Most kid’s books today have happy endings, so this one is unique in that way. I think the ending makes you feel like you know Billy and the dogs even more.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful story for kids ages 9-13.


The Jaguar and the Cacao Treejagurar and cacoa
By Birgitte Rasine
Published by LUCITA Publishing
332 pages

I was asked to review this upcoming book, which will be published in March 2016. This was a thrilling and marvelous book in almost every way. It’s full of adventure, mythology, magic and a wondrous plot. The book is about two kids, Max and Itzel, and their adventures in the jungles of Guatemala. It is also about Mayan life and mythology where the legends actually come to life!

Max is eleven year old boy who gets to travel the world. His father is a bee researcher whose job takes him to exotic places and his mother is a science writer who helps Max’s father. The book begins when Max’s family goes to Guatemala to research a unique type of bee. There, they stay with a small Mayan village, near the jungle, where Max meets a young Mayan girl names Itzel. Itzel teaches Max about the ancient Mayan culture and traditions and together, they have numerous adventures in the jungle. For example, they encounter serpents and jaguars, and re-home honeybees.

The biggest adventure they have is when, one night, Itzel takes Max to a sacred cacao tree where, during the full moon, the Mayan elders perform a ritual with the cacao pods. But when Max and Itzel realize it’s not the night of the full moon, they have to hurry back to the village before they are discovered missing and near the sacred tree, where they are not allowed. As they are leaving, they discover several of the sacred cacao pods had fallen off the tree. When they open the pods, they accidentally release the sacred pollen inside and find themselves in deep trouble with one of the Mayan mythological deities.

This book taught me a lot about the Mayan ways. For example, Itzel explains that naguals are “spirit guides.” In the book, Max actually meets his nagual, a hummingbird called Luna, who becomes an important character in the story. But I especially loved learning that chocolate is a part of Mayan history, including a special hot chocolate recipe that was passed down from an ancient Mayan lord.

One of the things I really liked about this book is that the author provided many small adventures and then one big one at the end. Most other books I’ve read only have one main adventure. I also liked the way the little adventures built up to the key adventure. This made the book more interesting and exciting.

Also, there are parts in the book where the characters speak Spanish, and the author provides the translation underneath. I think the way Spanish is used in the book makes the characters more realistic, since that is the language that is spoken in Guatemala. I also think it’s fun to learn a little Spanish.

This is a great adventure book for kids ages 9-13.


The One and Only Ivan
By Katherine Applegate
Published by HarperCollins
300 pages

This story is about promises kept, selflessness, and friendship. It’s about Ivan keeping his promise to his friend, Stella, and trying to get Ruby to a better place.

Ivan is a silverback gorilla. For twenty-seven years, Ivan has lived in the mall. Every day, Ivan is in his domain watching the people outside as they go about their lives. Ivan hardly ever thinks about his old life when he was living in the jungle. Instead, he watches television, draws, and paints. Ivan’s life is not sad. Sometimes he’s happy, especially when he’s painting. But Ivan doesn’t seem to realize what he doesn’t have. He doesn’t realize that his cage is small and he insists on calling it a domain and not a cage.

There’s a part where Ivan says “I know what most humans think. They think gorillas don’t have imaginations. They think we don’t remember our pasts or ponder our futures. Come to think of it, I suppose they have a point. Mostly I think about what is, not what could be.” This suggests that Ivan might not have any hope. I think it’s more that Ivan doesn’t hope for anything because he doesn’t know what to hope for. So when Stella tells him about a zoo, a place where she says humans try to make amends to the animals, he begins to have something to hope for.

Ivan isn’t the only animal at the mall. There are elephants, dogs, and birds. But, Ivan is the only gorilla. All of the animals, except Ivan, are part of a small circus. But as Mack, the human boss at the mall, says, it’s enough for Ivan to be Ivan.

Ivan’s best friends are Stella and Bob. Stella is an older, wise elephant who remembers much of her old life in the jungle, and knows many stories. Stella and Ivan have a very strong friendship that compels Ivan to make a special promise to her. His other friend, Bob, is a crafty stray dog who stays at the mall, but doesn’t want an actual home. Bob’s would rather find his own food than be fed by someone else. At one point in the story, when he is asked why he doesn’t want a home, he answers, “Everywhere is my home, I am a wild beast, my friend: untamed and undaunted.

The other main character is Ruby. Ruby comes into the story when business at the mall slows down, and fewer people come to see the animals. Mack decides to get a small baby elephant (Ruby) for the circus. Ruby is young and naïve and asks lots of questions. When Ivan sees her in her small cage, and when he sees how Mack makes her practice her circus routine even when she’s very tired, Ivan decides he must make some changes.

The story is narrated by Ivan. But as Ivan says, gorillas don’t waste words. I think the author did a great job incorporating that concept – short sentences and descriptions without wasting words – into the way the book was written, but without making the story too simple.

Although this story is a work of fiction, it was inspired by the true story of a gorilla that also lived in a store for many years before going to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, and later to Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia. You can learn about this story here.

This book has won many awards including the 2013 John Newbery Medal. It’s a wonderful story for anyone ages 8-14.


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