Novel Gifts

Our holiday gift recommendations continue with a few novels we think young readers might enjoy.

The One and Only Ivan

Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao

HarperCollins, 2012

Ivan the gorilla is resigned to his life in a glass enclosure at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. But when Ruby the baby elephant arrives, Ivan commits himself to winning a better life for her. Applegate crafts a natural and believable voice for Ivan, at once plain and poetic, and with it will break your heart (in the best possible way). And Castelao’s gentle gestures only add to the grace. Beautiful prose tells a beautiful story. Poignant, emotional and uplifting.

Shark King

Kikuo R. Johnson

Candlewick, 2012

A Hawaiian legend about a shape-shifting boy who becomes a king is just the thing for a picture-perfect beginning reader with graphic illustrations, comic book panels, word-balloon dialogue and ebullient excitement! Those familiar with the tropes of the graphic novel will appreciate the care with which they are observed, and those new to the format will enjoy its immediacy and its fun. Bright, smart and ebullient.

Code Name Verity

Elizabeth Wein

Disney-Hyperion, 2012

Shot down behind German lines during WWII, and enduring starvation and torture, Julie trades Allied secrets for prolonged safety and a few trifling comforts. Or does she? Wein’s startling novel weaves espionage, honor and indelible friendship into a gripping, revelatory package. Fierce readers will appreciate the investment required to dig through the obfuscation and retrieve a singularlygratifying literary reward. Dense, complex and thrilling.