THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN
Some middle grade stories are the sort that just grab you and turn you inside out, all the feelings layered deeply within every page. The One and Only Ivan is one such story, with a depth of emotion that catches you, yet mitigated with a humor in the very words that inspire those heart-felt responses.
Ivan is a gorilla on display at a small carnival off a main route. He lives there in his domain alongside an older elephant named Stella, a scrappy dog dubbed Bob and a ton of other small animals. He has also made friends with the little girl who comes and sits by his enclosure each night while her father cleans. He is content, or at least numb, to his life. But all that changes when baby elephant Ruby is brought in to replace Stella.
Armed with a promise to Stella that he will change Ruby’s lot in life, Ivan sets about putting his artistic talents to use in order to communicate with his human friends. But he’s just a gorilla. A gorilla who has been in this cage for so long, his memories of a time before shuttered away, leaving him wondering if he’ll ever be capable of fulfilling his promise, of ever seeing anything but the inside of the cage that has been his domain for so long.
This one is easy to read, with laugh-out-loud commentary from Ivan (and Bob!) that breaks up the serious issues of captivity and animal abuse, leaving this book sweet and wonderful rather than heavy. Highly recommend for all ages, but in particular for artists, because there are many touchstones for young artists (and old!) that will bolster anyone creative.
Posted in Recommendation
Tagged book, contemporary, contemporary fantasy, fantasy, fiction, furry, furry fiction, katherine applegate, MG, middle grade, novel
by Eoin Colfer
Deep in the swamps lives a dragon who goes by the name of Vern. Oh, he used to be something grander, a Lord Highfire, but nowadays with the wyverns all but gone, Vern just wants to live alone, enjoy his days in the bayou with his cable and armchair and vodka.
The second lead character in this novel is a fifteen-year old who goes by Squib and who has just the right amount of luck to watch his boss murdered by the local constable, who, just so happens, also is attempting to woo Squib’s mother. Life is complicated. Made more so when he ends up getting tapped to fill some shoes and begin delivering for a real-life dragon who can’t exactly get his alcohol himself. At least not without terrorizing the locals and having to relocate afterwards.
But the local constable wants Squib out of the way and doesn’t mind that way being deep in the depths of the swamp where no one will ever find him. And if a dragon happens to get in the way, well, the constable can work with that too.
Vern might just have to break a few of his own rules and gives his armchair and vodka a break in order to help the first human he’s actually come to care about for a long, long time.
This fantasy novel is a fun, easy read, perfect for a wide variety of ages. It leaves you satisfied without much emotional upheaval other than a happy-minded contentment for having read.
by Nnedi Okorafor
Sankofa, the Adopted Daughter of Death, is a young girl protected by a green glow from within that can kill all it encompasses. Everyone knows of her, everyone fears her, and the tales told of her are many and varied.
Remote Control takes you through Sankofa’s life, from her youthful bouts of malaria and her conversations with a mysterious seed, through her attempts to live undisturbed in a world that insists on her evilness. This is a tale about perseverance, prejudice, and home.
There’s a lovely metaphor here for all those who have at some point in their lives felt they ruined everything they touched, who have struggled to find a place where they belong, people who could understand them. For those who feel they hurt those closest to them, and try as they might, always seem to destroy good things around them, this tale can be cathartic.
Yet, this story is also for those who have grown stronger because of the thorns on their path. Sankofa might not be who we are, but there’s a piece of her in all of us.
THE STARLESS SEA
This is a story about a young man named Zachary. But it’s not just a story about a young man named Zachary. This is truly a story about dreams, about hopes, and passions, and places that don’t exist except in our hearts. This is a story about finding that missing piece that puts all the rest together.
There are books within this book and stories within its stories, each of them coming back to the idea of this starless sea that exists and calls to certain people. Zachary Ezra Rawlins is one such person who discovers a book that has him inside of it, for once there had been a door he hadn’t walked through. And in that book, he finds hint to this sea, to this place he’d had a chance to discover and yet hadn’t taken. So he goes searching for another way in, determined not to squander a second chance, with only frail clues to symbolize his way.
I went into this book thinking that there was a puzzle to unravel, but there is no such puzzle. This isn’t a book that answers every question or completes every idea. Instead, it’s about possibilities, about being lost or found or cold or unsatisfied; it’s about endings and beginnings and how sometimes they are indistinguishable.
This novel is a beautiful journey, meant for those who want that journey more than the place they expect to end up. I recommend this book for those who enjoy finding their own meaning between lyrical words and metaphorical stories.
A DEADLY EDUCATION
This novel is what you get when you mix Hunger Games and Harry Potter together. In fact, I could easily imagine that as the actual pitch for A Deadly Education. So if that combination sounds fascinating to you, you will likely enjoy this one!
The protagonist of this book, Galadriel (or El for short), is a student in a deadly, underground school where all the lessons are taught without teachers and monsters literally crawl up from cracks and lower floors in an attempt to eat the students who radiate power and magic. The students band together in alliance groups resembling raiding guilds or fellowships in order to have the power needed to survive their graduation day—when they’ll be forced to fight their way free from the school.
The writing style is a little more YA than Novik’s previous books, a style more in-line with recent series that have been incredibly popular. This comes from the easy, chatty first person point-of-view, her limited scope, and occasional unreliability as she views herself as a loner in the beginning and has to learn to truly understand the other students around her. There’s a lot of coming to terms with reaching out socially, seeking help when needed, as well as being willing to give of oneself in order to help the group as a whole in order to see wider success.
Please Note: there was some controversy over the use of the word dreadlocks in relation to being dirty and this is most definitely a line that is unsightly in the novel, however, the author has come out with an apology and future runs will not have the comment.