Familiar, fun, and all-around delightful.

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MYSTERY CLUB

From the Mr. Wolf's Class series , Vol. 2

In this next installment in the graphic-novel series, fourth-graders become schoolyard sleuths.

Even though it is populated with a menagerie of animal characters, Mr. Wolf’s fourth-grade class’s routine is easily recognizable: There are myriad classroom interruptions, spills, hallway lines, and recess shenanigans. Three classmates—Randy, a pastel pink cat; Margot, a chocolate-brown bunny; and hijabi Aziza, a lavender duck—decide to form a mystery club and vow to find missing playground balls, learn what happened to a beloved teacher, and ascertain whether a bathroom is haunted. As the girls work through solving their cases, the final conundrum culminates at Randy’s birthday pizza party, which her entire class attends. Written and illustrated by Steinke, this authentic and charming comic offering is both eye-catching and accessible with its cheery plotlines and emphasis on friendship. The art is clean and bright, with simply rendered panels and clear speech bubbles. Since each volume shifts its lens to different students, this series works equally well as a stand-alone or as read sequentially; for those looking for more capers, a third volume is promised. Young readers should easily self-identify among the variety of animal characters, who encompass a broad spectrum of diversity, including having same-sex parents, dealing with anxiety, and ethnic differences. The last is cued with attire and naming convention, with no discernible attempt to correlate particular animals with particular cultural groups.

Familiar, fun, and all-around delightful. (Graphic fantasy. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-04774-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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

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 Hamilton and 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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What a wag.

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DOG MAN

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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