Readers who stick around to see Vera become her own hero are in for a satisfying read.

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VERA VANCE, COMICS STAR

From the After-School Superstars series , Vol. 2

Vera Vance attends comics-making camp and dreams of attending the final field trip in this installment of the After-School Superstars series.

Third-grader Vera Vance is totally into comics, so she is excited to attend an after-school camp devoted to making comics with her friend Nixie (of Nixie Ness, Cooking Star, 2019). Vera has a hard time sticking up for herself, so she suffers through experiences like making a final project with Nixie when she really wants to work on her own project. And when her mom, who values grades and piano but not comics, says no to the camp’s final field trip to a comic-con, Vera is crushed, seeing no way to change her mother’s mind. But at the last minute, all her camp lessons about the hero’s journey and the power of comics come together with Vera’s talent to make a pretty brilliant bid for reaching her goal. Vera’s shyness will be appreciated and understood by many readers. Her character stays real throughout, and the lovely wrap-up shows how every personality type in any situation can find a way to use their strengths to reach their goals. Vera’s dad died years ago, a fact remarked on in brief but emotional musings. Full-page, black-and-white illustrations punctuate most chapters, depicting brown-skinned Vera with an afropuff and Nixie as white, while the small font pushes the boundary between chapter book and middle grade.

Readers who stick around to see Vera become her own hero are in for a satisfying read. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4094-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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 buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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