A pleasant romp for plot-happy readers.

KERRY AND THE KNIGHT OF THE FOREST

On a journey to save his parents, a boy gets lost in an enchanted forest in this new graphic fantasy.

After retrieving medicine from a nearby village, Kerry is desperate to find the quickest way home to his ailing parents. When he finds a childlike spirit at the edge of the Forest of Shadows, he follows her into the woods, hoping for a shortcut. Soon, Kerry comes across a large, kite-shaped black stone with one singular piercing yellow eye. Floating above the ground and called the Knight of the Road, the creature is a Waystone whose role is to help travelers find safe passage through the forest. The last of his kind, he agrees to help Kerry navigate the perilous wood. But their journey isn’t easy, and Kerry’s naïve, earnest, and trusting personality sometimes grates on the grumpy, mysterious Waystone. When they learn that an evil force is vying for control of the forest’s creatures, Kerry must decide if he will attempt to free everyone from its spell, endangering both himself and his parents, or return home quickly to his sick family. While some of the plotting, particularly the denouement, feels contrived, readers will be happy to find such a tidy, happy ending. Overall, characterization takes a back seat to plot and adventure, an emphasis furthered by the simplicity of characters’ facial features. Character sheets, including a guide to creating your own character, and early concept art are included in the back.

A pleasant romp for plot-happy readers. (Graphic fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12523-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock”...

THE SINGING ROCK & OTHER BRAND-NEW FAIRY TALES

The theme of persistence (for better or worse) links four tales of magic, trickery, and near disasters.

Lachenmeyer freely borrows familiar folkloric elements, subjecting them to mildly comical twists. In the nearly wordless “Hip Hop Wish,” a frog inadvertently rubs a magic lamp and finds itself saddled with an importunate genie eager to shower it with inappropriate goods and riches. In the title tale, an increasingly annoyed music-hating witch transforms a persistent minstrel into a still-warbling cow, horse, sheep, goat, pig, duck, and rock in succession—then is horrified to catch herself humming a tune. Athesius the sorcerer outwits Warthius, a rival trying to steal his spells via a parrot, by casting silly ones in Ig-pay Atin-lay in the third episode, and in the finale, a painter’s repeated efforts to create a flattering portrait of an ogre king nearly get him thrown into a dungeon…until he suddenly understands what an ogre’s idea of “flattering” might be. The narratives, dialogue, and sound effects leave plenty of elbow room in Blocker’s big, brightly colored panels for the expressive animal and human(ish) figures—most of the latter being light skinned except for the golden genie, the blue ogre, and several people of color in the “Sorcerer’s New Pet.”

Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock” music. (Graphic short stories. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59643-750-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more.

LONG DISTANCE

After moving to a new city, a girl attends a wilderness camp to help her make new friends.

When astronomy-obsessed 9-year-old Vega’s dad Wes gets a new job, the family moves from Portland to Seattle. Vega is not happy about this change and doesn’t want to leave her best friend behind, worrying they will grow apart. Vega’s dad Javi thinks making new friends will help her adjust, so he signs her up for Camp Very Best Friend, which is designed to help introverted local children build new friendships. Vega is not exactly eager to go but makes a deal with Wes, agreeing to try out camp as long as he tries to make a new friend too. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary outdoor adventure, and Vega and her fellow campers try to figure out what is really going on. The story smoothly incorporates STEM facts with insets on the page to define and highlight terms or tools. An unexpected twist toward the end of this fast-paced adventure that reveals the truth behind the camp will surprise readers. The clean, bright artwork is enhanced by panels of varying shapes and clear, easy-to-follow speech bubbles. Race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are not explicitly addressed; characters’ names and physical appearances indicate a broadly diverse cast starting with brown-skinned Vega and her two dads.

A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more. (Graphic fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5566-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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