An interesting series opener that gets lost on its own trail.

BILLY STUART AND THE ZINTREPIDS

From the Billy Stuart series

In this Canadian import, translated from the French, a young raccoon named Billy Stuart sets out on an adventure through time.

Kilt-wearing Billy lives in the town of Cavendish, where he begrudgingly walks his neighbors’ poodle, FrouFrou. Billy also leads the Zintrepids, a scout troop of five animals (well, six, if you include FrouFrou). One day, a letter from Billy’s grandfather arrives, inviting Billy to join him at a newly discovered passageway through time in Belcher’s Cavern. But there’s a snag: Billy’s grandfather’s journey is the same day Billy has a forest hike with his scout troop! Can he complete the hike and also see his grandfather? Told mostly in first person from Billy’s perspective, the narrative sets some words apart in bolded, brightly colored type to add emphasis. Numerous yellow sticky notes (from author Bergeron, who claims to have met Billy) corroborate the story’s events. Sampar’s full-color cartoon illustrations add a cinematic quality, especially in the text’s occasional comic-book panels. Simple vocabulary, ample leading, and supporting spot illustrations make this a good transitional chapter book. Still, the overall narrative structure juggles too much and sacrifices plot for the sake of its own cleverness. Some puzzle games are included between chapters—though they are not referenced in the plot. The ending suggests future adventures for the Zintrepids.

An interesting series opener that gets lost on its own trail. (puzzle solutions) (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1837-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Silly and inventive fast-paced fun

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INVESTIGATORS

From the InvestiGators series , Vol. 1

A zippy graphic-novel series opener featuring two comically bumbling reptile detectives.

As agents of SUIT (Special Undercover Investigation Team) with customized VESTs (Very Exciting Spy Technology) boasting the latest gadgetry, the bright green InvestiGators Mango and Brash receive their newest assignment. The reptilian duo must go undercover at the Batter Down bakery to find missing mustachioed Chef Gustavo and his secret recipes. Before long, the pair find themselves embroiled in a strange and busy plot with a scientist chicken, a rabid were-helicopter, an escape-artist dinosaur, and radioactive cracker dough. Despite the great number of disparate threads, Green manages to tie up most neatly, leaving just enough intrigue for subsequent adventures. Nearly every panel has a joke, including puns (“gator done!”), poop jokes, and pop-culture references (eagle-eyed older readers will certainly pick up on the 1980s song references), promising to make even the most stone-faced readers dissolve into giggles. Green’s art is as vibrant as an overturned box of crayons and as highly spirited as a Saturday-morning cartoon. Fast pacing and imaginative plotting (smattered with an explosion here, a dance number there) propel the action through a whimsical world in which a diverse cast of humans live alongside anthropomorphized reptiles and dinosaurs. With its rampant good-natured goofiness and its unrelenting fizz and pep, this feels like a sugar rush manifested as a graphic novel.

Silly and inventive fast-paced fun . (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21995-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A simple but by no means simplistic tale emphasizing the universality of kindness.

THE WAY HOME

From the Owly series , Vol. 1

A wide-eyed owl yearns to make friends.

Owly, a gentle bird of prey, just wants to help. The other forest creatures fear him even when he approaches with kindness and support. Owly tries leaving seed to feed the smaller birds, but they flee when they spot him. He rescues two insects trapped in a jar, but again, they fly off when they spy the raptor. Owly’s luck turns when he aids a worm named Wormy trapped in a puddle. Wormy and Owly forge an unlikely but genial friendship, and their forest adventures include reuniting Wormy with his missing parents and then befriending—and ultimately having to say goodbye to—two lovely hummingbirds who must migrate south as the seasons change. When adversity challenges Owly, he reacts calmly, communicates his feelings with Wormy, and acts with warmth and bravery. Originally published in 2004 as a wordless, black-and-white volume, this reissue adds both color, with a cheery earth-toned palette, and dialogue among most of the characters, with the exception of Owly, who communicates only through pictures. Runton’s evocative characters are nothing short of huggably adorable and affirm the importance of compassion and empathy against perceived stereotypes. Owly and Wormy both identify as male characters; hummingbird friends Tiny and Angel identify as male and female, respectively.

A simple but by no means simplistic tale emphasizing the universality of kindness. (Graphic fantasy. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-30066-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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