Even craft-happy readers will wish for a believable plot, especially one where the good guys and bad guys are more...

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THE AMAZING CRAFTY CAT

When disaster derails Birdie’s birthday plans, the little girl’s alter ego, Crafty Cat, saves the day.

Birdie trips on the way to school, smashing her birthday cupcakes all over her dress. Now she’s a mess and she has nothing to share with her classmates. What to do? Quickly changing into Crafty Cat, she turns the mess on her dress into a sugary map of North America before turning back into Birdie. But she still doesn’t have anything to share. Birdie’s grandfather shows up with un-cupcakelike replacements: black olives and cottage cheese. When all seems bleak, Birdie’s alter ego comes up with the perfect idea: a birthday craft. While Birdie plans her craft, readers see class bully Anya eating way too many olives. It’s hard to feel too much glee at her comeuppance, because Anya has not really done anything particularly despicable outside of Birdie’s imagination in the first 97 pages and therefore is not fundamentally unlikable. Harper’s art is reliably enjoyable to peruse—when Birdie is daydreaming, Harper uses green curved lines as the borders, while reality is depicted in stark black outlines. But this cannot save the story’s pacing and credibility problems; there are too many pages between moments of action, and missing a birthday treat just doesn’t seem calamitous, even for these evidently rather sheltered white children.

Even craft-happy readers will wish for a believable plot, especially one where the good guys and bad guys are more dramatically constructed. (Graphic fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-486-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low.

DOG MAN AND CAT KID

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 4

Recasting Dog Man and his feline ward, Li’l Petey, as costumed superheroes, Pilkey looks East of Eden in this follow-up to Tale of Two Kitties (2017).

The Steinbeck novel’s Cain/Abel motif gets some play here, as Petey, “world’s evilest cat” and cloned Li’l Petey’s original, tries assiduously to tempt his angelic counterpart over to the dark side only to be met, ultimately at least, by Li’l Petey’s “Thou mayest.” (There are also occasional direct quotes from the novel.) But inner struggles between good and evil assume distinctly subordinate roles to riotous outer ones, as Petey repurposes robots built for a movie about the exploits of Dog Man—“the thinking man’s Rin Tin Tin”—while leading a general rush to the studio’s costume department for appropriate good guy/bad guy outfits in preparation for the climactic battle. During said battle and along the way Pilkey tucks in multiple Flip-O-Rama inserts as well as general gags. He lists no fewer than nine ways to ask “who cut the cheese?” and includes both punny chapter titles (“The Bark Knight Rises”) and nods to Hamilton and Mary Poppins. The cartoon art, neatly and brightly colored by Garibaldi, is both as easy to read as the snappy dialogue and properly endowed with outsized sound effects, figures displaying a range of skin colors, and glimpses of underwear (even on robots).

More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93518-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

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What a wag.

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DOG MAN

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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