This consistently clever and thoughtful series hasn’t lost a particle of momentum.

HOW MIRKA CAUGHT A FISH

After previously battling a troll and then a meteorite, fearless, stubborn Mirka returns for a third outing, this time to save her family from a vengeful magical fish.

Rather than battling monsters, precocious Mirka, a young Orthodox Jewish girl living in a large blended family, is told that she must spend a day babysitting her stepsister Layele. Determined to eke out some excitement, Mirka takes her charge into the woods that, only moments earlier, her stepmother, Fruma, had warned her about. In the woods, Mirka and Layele encounter her old opponent, the troll, who gives Mirka a hairband that allows her to see the past. With it, she learns that Fruma had made a deal with a very tricky, wish-granting fish but left her trapped in a lake for eternity. Naturally, the girls happen upon the fish, and she tricks young Layele into bringing her home, determined to exact her revenge upon Fruma. This time, Mirka must fight a battle without weapons and confront the vindictive fish with new weapons: kindness and logic. Deutsch has created a wonderfully inventive world in which fantastic creatures believably reside alongside a religious community; Mirka is a delightfully flawed heroine that nearly anyone can relate to and enjoy. Backgrounder Wallace and colorist Richmond augment Deutsch’s busy panels, providing a pleasingly earth-toned setting for Mirka’s latest adventure.

This consistently clever and thoughtful series hasn’t lost a particle of momentum. (Graphic fantasy. 8-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0800-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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