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A journey of loss both intimate and fantastical, swept along by flowing, emotive illustrations.

A boy’s search for a sock leads him below and beyond the world he knows.

Milo feels adrift—twin babies take up his mother’s attention, and their new home is full of moving boxes and devoid of fun. When Milo’s mom asks him to locate one of the babies’ socks in the cavernous basement, he reluctantly agrees. He heads down into a classically creepy old-house basement and spies a rat absconding with the bright pink sock. Milo gives chase through multiple curiously adorned subbasements, careens down a dark tunnel in a mine cart, and finally falls into a boundless underworld full of artifacts of bygone civilizations—and a gargantuan mountain of socks. As he descends, Milo befriends a chattering skull, a giant eyeball, a ghost girl seeking her stocking, and a nun with a bell for a face. Together, they face the sock rats and a translucent monster who threatens to thwart them. Hatke’s artistic vision is central to the story, with constantly flowing, kinetic linework that sweeps readers along, riptidelike, ever deeper into the story. The shadowy underworld feels imposing without descending into horror; it helps that the big bad guy is a green ball of goo. With a light touch to the dialogue, this work explores themes of loss, grief, and displacement in moving ways. Milo and his family are cued Latine.

A journey of loss both intimate and fantastical, swept along by flowing, emotive illustrations. (Graphic fantasy. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2023

ISBN: 9781250909541

Page Count: 240

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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From the Night Frights series , Vol. 1

Lighthearted spook with a heaping side of silliness—and hair.

Fifth graders get into a hairy situation.

After an unnamed narrator’s full-page warning, readers dive right into a Wolver Hollow classroom. Mr. Noffler recounts the town legend about how, every Oct. 19, residents don fake mustaches and lock their doors. As the story goes, the late Bockius Beauregard was vaporized in an “unfortunate black powder incident,” but, somehow, his “magnificent mustache” survived to haunt the town. Once a year, the spectral ’stache searches for an exposed upper lip to rest upon. Is it real or superstition? Students Parker and Lucas—sole members of the Midnight Owl Detective Agency—decide to take the case and solve the mustache mystery. When they find that the book of legends they need for their research has been checked out from the library, they recruit the borrower: goth classmate Samantha von Oppelstein. Will the three of them be enough to take on the mustache and resolve its ghostly, unfinished business? Whether through ridiculous plot points or over-the-top descriptions, the comedy keeps coming in this first title in McGee’s new Night Frights series. A generous font and spacing make this quick-paced, 13-chapter story appealing to newly confident readers. Skaffa’s grayscale cartoon spot (and occasional full-page) illustrations help set the tone and accentuate the action. Though neither race or skin color is described in the text, images show Lucas and Samantha as light-skinned and Parker as dark-skinned.

Lighthearted spook with a heaping side of silliness—and hair. (maps) (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8089-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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From the Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter series , Vol. 2

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark.

An animal ghost seeks closure after enduring aquatic atrocities.

In this sequel to The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter (2020), sixth grader Rex is determined to once again use his ability to communicate with dead animals for the greater good. A ghost narwhal’s visit gives Rex his next opportunity in the form of the clue “bad water.” Rex enlists Darvish—his Pakistani American human best friend—and Drumstick—his “faithful (dead) chicken”—to help crack the case. But the mystery is only one of Rex’s many roadblocks. For starters, Sami Mulpepper hugged him at a dance, and now she’s his “accidental girlfriend.” Even worse, Darvish develops one of what Rex calls “Game Preoccupation Disorders” over role-playing game Monsters & Mayhem that may well threaten the pair’s friendship. Will Rex become “a Sherlock without a Watson,” or can the two make amends in time to solve the mystery? This second outing effectively carries the “ghost-mist” torch from its predecessor without feeling too much like a formulaic carbon copy. Spouting terms like plausible deniability and in flagrante delicto, Rex makes for a hilariously bombastic (if unlikable) first-person narrator. The over-the-top style is contagious, and black-and-white illustrations throughout add cartoony punchlines to various scenes. Unfortunately, scenes in which humor comes at the expense of those with less status are downright cringeworthy, as when Rex, who reads as White, riffs on the impossibility of his ever pronouncing Darvish’s surname or he plays dumb by staring into space and drooling.

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark. (Paranormal mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5523-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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