BALLAD

Pictured in a long spate of silkscreen tableaux bound up in a small, bricklike volume, a bored child’s daydream zigzags its way into an increasingly wild fantasy adventure.

Printed (seemingly) on rough denim, the grainy, stylized scenes are designed to be understood at a glance and paged through quickly. Staid opening images of a school, a road and a house are transformed by both increasing detail and the appearances of new characters. These range from a pair of bandits and a witch to a duster-wearing stranger, police officers, soldiers, a dragon and others. Even as both characters and visual complexity multiply, readers are further shaken up by scenery occasionally being turned upside down and later sideways. Ultimately, the stranger becomes a protagonist who escapes various dangers, discovers treasure and rescues a princess from a sorcerer. With her, he defeats the witch amid bolts of spell-cast lightning…and comes home at last. Aside from allusive chapter heads—“A hero is revealed. During a long and perilous journey several scores are settled. In the forest, night itself is an enchantress”—the narrative is entirely composed of one- or two-word identifiers beneath each picture that are strung into sequences (“The school, / the road, / home”) while, occasionally, themselves turning upside down or even vanishing in part: “the     .” Despite an unconventional presentation and dizzying twists, the tale ends up on a classic course. The delicious temptation to take an active role in the surreal adventure by adding details or even whole subplots will be hard to resist. (Picture book. 6-9)

 

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59270-137-7

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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What a wag.

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DOG MAN

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 1

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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THE FENWAY FOUL-UP

BALLPARK MYSTERIES, #1

From the Ballpark Mysteries series , Vol. 1

A new series for emerging chapter-book readers combines the allure of baseball parks with the challenge of solving a mystery. Mike and Kate have tickets to a Red Sox game and an all-access pass to the park, courtesy of Kate's mom, a sportswriter. The pass comes in handy when it's reported that star player Big D's lucky bat has been stolen, as it allows them to help find the thief. Historical details about Fenway Park, including the secret code found on the manual scoreboard, a look at Wally the mascot and a peek into the gift shop, will keep the young baseball fan reading, even when the actual mystery of the missing bat falls a little flat. Writing mysteries for very young readers is a challenge—the puzzle has to be easy enough to solve while sustaining readers' interest. This slight adventure is more baseball-park travel pamphlet than mystery, a vehicle for providing interesting details about one of the hallowed halls of baseball. Not a homerun, but certainly a double for the young enthusiast. On deck? The Pinstripe Ghost, also out on Feb. 22, 2011. (historical notes) (Mystery. 6-9)

 

 

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-86703-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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