Light as air, sneakily earnest, chock-full of worthy silliness: “Be like cheese (or bacon) and make everything you touch...

A buoyant young YouTube celebrity’s experiences and outlook spawn 240 pages of uplift.

It’s all hung on a 100-point (!) program for awesomeness that begins with “Put down your phone” and ends with “Start writing on a page and then lose track of…” (and is helpfully repeated at the end of the book as a checklist). This patchwork assemblage of slogans, photos, recipes, instructions, side projects, short interviews with dozens of activists, and banter with co-author/producer/brother-in-law Montague boogies along as energetically as its (now) 11-year-old frontman. The irrepressible Novak was propelled to viral fame by the 2012 video “Pep Talk” (included in transcription, with new cartoon illustrations). He lights up his subsequent encounters with fellow celebrities from President Barack Obama and Beyoncé to Justin Timberlake and Timberlake’s grandma—as well as such bright if less-visible luminaries as the founders of a beauty pageant for special needs participants and “Make a Stand,” a lemonade-based anti–child-slavery initiative. Blending generalities with specific actions, the life advice runs to upbeat witticisms like “Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is short and deodorant is expensive”; “Don’t be in a party. Be a party”; “High five your dentist”; and “Practice the art of the unexpected burrito.” It’s organizationally overwhelming, with a design aesthetic that seems to spurn consistency across more than four pages.

Light as air, sneakily earnest, chock-full of worthy silliness: “Be like cheese (or bacon) and make everything you touch better.” (Self-help. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-235868-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2015


A rich and deeply felt slice of life.

Crafting fantasy worlds offers a budding middle school author relief and distraction from the real one in this graphic memoir debut.

Everyone in Tori’s life shows realistic mixes of vulnerability and self-knowledge while, equally realistically, seeming to be making it up as they go. At least, as she shuttles between angrily divorced parents—dad becoming steadily harder to reach, overstressed mom spectacularly incapable of reading her offspring—or drifts through one wearingly dull class after another, she has both vivacious bestie Taylor Lee and, promisingly, new classmate Nick as well as the (all-girl) heroic fantasy, complete with portals, crystal amulets, and evil enchantments, taking shape in her mind and on paper. The flow of school projects, sleepovers, heart-to-heart conversations with Taylor, and like incidents (including a scene involving Tori’s older brother, who is having a rough adolescence, that could be seen as domestic violence) turns to a tide of change as eighth grade winds down and brings unwelcome revelations about friends. At least the story remains as solace and, at the close, a sense that there are still chapters to come in both worlds. Working in a simple, expressive cartoon style reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s, Sharp captures facial and body language with easy naturalism. Most people in the spacious, tidily arranged panels are White; Taylor appears East Asian, and there is diversity in background characters.

A rich and deeply felt slice of life. (afterword, design notes) (Graphic memoir. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53889-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021


Street makes a better critic than comedian, but he has some solid insights to share.

How to make looking at art more fun—or at least not staid.

Led by a marmalade cat in a beret and leather jacket, the museum tour is largely designed to encourage “rebels” to look for symbols, metaphors, and messages, hidden or otherwise, in select art reproductions exemplifying various genres, subjects, media, and styles. Efforts to lighten the load with, for instance, references to “butts” and “boobies” in a chapter on “Nude Art,” a cartoon fart added by Wright to the Mona Lisa, and a 17th-century still life not of fruit or flowers but hunks of cheese by Clara Peeters (“one of the best cheese painters ever”) really only distract from Street’s often acute comments. Readers who look beyond the yuks will learn that the necklace of thorns Frida Kahlo placed about her neck in a self portrait evokes her chronic physical ills and the importance of understanding that abstract art isn’t about things but feelings. Refreshingly, though the genitalia in the Nude Art section are discreetly covered, the bodies on display include one with dwarfism, another that is pregnant and has no arms, and a third that is identified as the artist’s “coming-out.” Young viewers in need of a systematic course in how to see art had best look elsewhere, but they will come away with new tools, ideas worth mulling…and at least two bits of universal life wisdom: “Always have fun. And be weird.”

Street makes a better critic than comedian, but he has some solid insights to share. (glossary, list of artworks) (Nonfiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65164-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

Close Quickview