What Rick Riordan did for the Greek gods, Fajardo has done for “Beowulf”: magnificent.

THE BLOOD-BOUND OATH

From the Kid Beowulf series , Vol. 1

“Beowulf” reimagined.

Starting two generations back from the events of the familiar saga, Fajardo breathes a new life into the tale of Beowulf. In his inventive interpretation, Beowulf and Grendel are twin brothers, resulting from a generations-old blood oath between Beowulf’s grandfather Hrothgar and a delightfully snarky and ferocious blue dragon, an entertaining back story that occupies most of the book. His fate sealed long before his birth, Beowulf—a kind and brave young boy rather than a vicious monster-killer—must learn about his past while confronting his destiny. As the heir to the throne of a land that’s fractured by long-standing feuds and facing dwindling food supplies, Beowulf has many important choices before him, leaving lots of room for subsequent installments. Told in richly imagined comic panels, this offering is visually arresting, with an array of eye-popping colors that positively demand attention from readers. The aftermatter is abundant and well-wrought, offering key terms, historical origins and explanations, a family tree, maps, and lessons on drawing and comic-book making. Fajardo not only makes “Beowulf” accessible for younger readers, he makes it interesting and edifying without any dilution.

What Rick Riordan did for the Greek gods, Fajardo has done for “Beowulf”: magnificent. (character list) (Graphic fantasy. 7-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4494-7589-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low.

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DOG MAN AND CAT KID

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 4

Recasting Dog Man and his feline ward, Li’l Petey, as costumed superheroes, Pilkey looks East of Eden in this follow-up to Tale of Two Kitties (2017).

The Steinbeck novel’s Cain/Abel motif gets some play here, as Petey, “world’s evilest cat” and cloned Li’l Petey’s original, tries assiduously to tempt his angelic counterpart over to the dark side only to be met, ultimately at least, by Li’l Petey’s “Thou mayest.” (There are also occasional direct quotes from the novel.) But inner struggles between good and evil assume distinctly subordinate roles to riotous outer ones, as Petey repurposes robots built for a movie about the exploits of Dog Man—“the thinking man’s Rin Tin Tin”—while leading a general rush to the studio’s costume department for appropriate good guy/bad guy outfits in preparation for the climactic battle. During said battle and along the way Pilkey tucks in multiple Flip-O-Rama inserts as well as general gags. He lists no fewer than nine ways to ask “who cut the cheese?” and includes both punny chapter titles (“The Bark Knight Rises”) and nods to Hamiltonand Mary Poppins. The cartoon art, neatly and brightly colored by Garibaldi, is both as easy to read as the snappy dialogue and properly endowed with outsized sound effects, figures displaying a range of skin colors, and glimpses of underwear (even on robots).

More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93518-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

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