Magical work, as immersive as the author’s Ballad (2013) or his larger-format picture albums.

READ REVIEW

VACATION

Storm clouds darken—both literally and figuratively—a young girl’s solitary summer idyll when her grandpa welcomes a new houseguest.

Blexbolex teases with the new guest’s identity in this wordless outing, as it may look like a small gray elephant in most of the pictures, but it behaves like another child…and appears as a boy in a pair of dream sequences. The girl greets the new arrival’s friendly overtures with a cold shoulder and mean pranks initially, but she repents after alienating him so that he doesn’t come home one evening and then forcing her grandpa to go out into a blustery night to fetch him back inside. By then he’s fed up, though, so the standoff continues…until the night everyone in the community dons animal masks and gathers beneath the stars for a country fair. But just when it seems like the quarrel might be resolved, the girl wakes up next morning and he’s gone. She catches a final glimpse of the lad—and, astonishingly, the elephant—waving from the departing train. This poignant tale of lost opportunity is presented through a series of small action and reaction shots set within larger views of a tidy country house in serene woodsy surrounds, all printed in serigraphic style on rough surfaced cloth. Emotional tapestries are easy to plot, both through the interplay of rich colors and deep shadows and the characters’ strong, graceful postures and gestures. The primary (human) cast is pale-skinned.

Magical work, as immersive as the author’s Ballad (2013) or his larger-format picture albums. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59270-246-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing.

SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE

From the Sunny series , Vol. 3

Sunny, in seventh grade, finds her score on the Groovy Meter taking some wild swings as her friends’ interests move in different directions.

In a motif that haunts her throughout, Sunny succumbs to a teen magazine’s personality quiz and sees her tally seesaw radically. Her BF Deb has suddenly switched focus to boys, clothes, and bands such as the Bee Gees (this is 1977)—dismissing trick-or-treating and wearing galoshes on rainy days as “babyish.” Meanwhile, Sunny takes delight in joining nerdy neighbors Lev, Brian, and Arun in regular sessions of Dungeons and Dragons (as a fighter character, so cool). The storytelling is predominantly visual in this episodic outing, with just occasional snatches of dialogue and pithy labels to fill in details or mark the passage of time; frequent reaction shots deftly capture Sunny’s feelings of being pulled this way and that. Tellingly, in the Holms’ panels (colored by Pien), Sunny’s depicted as significantly smaller than Deb, visually underscoring her developmental awkwardness. Deb’s comment that “we’re too old to be playing games like that” leads Sunny to drop out of the D&D circle and even go to the school’s staggeringly dull spring dance. Sunny’s mostly white circle of peers expands and becomes more diverse as she continues to navigate her way through the dark chambers and misty passages of early adolescence. Lev is an Orthodox Jew, Arun is South Asian, and Regina, another female friend, has brown skin.

The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-23314-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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