An appealing whodunit about friendship and community, great for fans of comics.


From the Poppy & Sam series

A tiny girl and her miniature panda companion solve a mystery and help their plant and insect friends.

Poppy is a small girl who lives inside a hollow pumpkin set in a pumpkin patch. Her panda friend, Sam, who acts like a child or younger sibling, helps her tend her garden. One day, they hear yelling nearby and run to find the cause. It’s Basil: Someone bit their leaves while they slept and they and the other plants are outraged. Poppy promises to help find the culprit. When interviews with Ms. Honeybee, Ladybug, and Mr. Bumblebee result in conflicting accusations, they make another plan to catch the thief. After two more failed attempts, Poppy finally figures out a clever way to find the nibbler. The thief apologizes and discovers that Basil is more than willing to share a leaf or two: “You only have to ask.” The simple, clean drawings are colored in natural tones, and the panels resemble comic art, varying in size to complement action and drama. Poppy may be curiously small, but she is resourceful and smart. With a dark beige skin tone and straight, black hair in a topknot, she is ethnically ambiguous; that she is a clever girl of color will appeal to many readers. The plant and animal friends are as adorable as Poppy and Sam, and there are clever surprises to discover on several pages.

An appealing whodunit about friendship and community, great for fans of comics. (Graphic mystery. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77147-329-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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A new chapter-book adventure series opens with a whimper.


From the S.O.S.: Society of Substitutes series , Vol. 1

The mystery of missing class pets: Is something nefarious afoot?

Second grader Milton Worthy feeds the class ferret, Noah, before class begins and then doesn’t close the cage securely. When Noah escapes, that’s when things get odd. Mrs. Baltman sends them out for an unscheduled early recess, and when they return, she is gone. In her place is a substitute: Milton’s mother. Mrs. Worthy doesn’t behave like a normal sub, either. She sends some students on a ferret hunt while others are ordered to seek blueprints of the school. While the class is on yet another unscheduled recess, Milton hides to spy on his mother and discovers her great secret. His mother is a helmet-wearing secret agent sent from the Society of Substitutes to thwart Noah, an evil genius who intends to teleport everyone to Evil Pet Island. A distracting overuse of ellipses and a disjointed narrative are bound to make this a challenge for readers transitioning to chapter books; milestones appear at the end of each chapter, but use of devices such as questions or comments to boost reader engagement is inconsistent. A mix of prose with speech bubbles in the cartoon illustrations may appeal to readers comfortable with comics. Diversity is conveyed primarily through the illustrations, buttressed by naming convention; Mrs. Baltman, Milton’s mother, and Milton all present White, though the class as a whole appears more diverse.

A new chapter-book adventure series opens with a whimper. (prompts) (Adventure. 7-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-290929-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Children who appreciate being a little smarter than the characters they read about will relish it.


From the Noodleheads series , Vol. 5

In another easy-reading graphic novel told in three loosely connected stories, the well-meaning but naïve pasta siblings Mac and Mac find out that luck is with them.

In Chapter 1, their old frenemy Meatball introduces the anthropomorphic ziti to honey, but the noodleheads understand it as “trouble.” Seeing an opportunity for mischief, Meatball then gives them a bag of “trouble.” The paper bag contains bees, but luckily, their mother intercepts it. By sheer coincidence, she has just built herself beehives, and what starts as a problem ends up being a boon. In Chapter 2, Meatball sells the brothers a watermelon that can hatch cats. Of course it doesn’t, but of course they end up with a kitten anyway thanks to the generosity of Farmer Spud. Chapter 3 shows them trying to think of a strong name for the kitten, starting out with Sky and Cloudy, then moving to sillier names such as Hippopotamus, Blippopotamus, and Nincompoop. (The cat’s expressions as they try these names out are hilarious.) When Mom says that the kitten is lucky to have the brothers as caregivers, they fasten on the right name and shout: “We got Lucky!” Arnold’s paneled cartoons extend the silliness. Fun-loving kids will laugh out loud as Mac and Mac make mistakes but end up OK. Adults will enjoy the excellent story source notes.

Children who appreciate being a little smarter than the characters they read about will relish it. (Graphic early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4002-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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