Star power may fuel sales, but Casey’s semiliterate prose conveys her message(s) with notable incoherence.

READ REVIEW

THE PORTAL IN THE PARK

A well-meant but pathetically inept paean to the virtues of emotional balance and physical exercise is boosted, though not very high, by seven songs from a pair of renowned Grammy winners.

Heavily abridged from previously published print and audiobook editions, the skeletal plot projects young bully Scott through a portal in New York’s Central Park. He falls into the clutches of monsters named Fearoid and Angroid until Sitara, the Queen of Self-Esteem and other members of the buff Cortex Rescue Team arrive. They deliver him to wise Relato, Master of Reality for a sermonette on responsibility interspersed with bland hip-hop lyrics. Reformed, Scott returns to the park and turns his friends into believers with mystic light from a little box. Appearing piecemeal on most but not all screens, the text can be read either silently or by a breathy narrator. There is also a self-record option but no other interactive feature aside from manual-advance arrows and a pale light that will follow a fingertip around each screen. The cartoon art is so perfunctory that Scott’s figure is repeatedly cut and pasted unchanged into multiple scenes. Along with the occasional misspelling and sentence fragment, the prose runs to stunning lines like “…her eyes pop open, staring at the most loathsome and weird-looking creatures with hairy limbs undulating and pulsating above the water’s surface.” The songs, all shoehorned into one of the seven chapters, are written and performed by Grandmaster Mele Mel with help on two cuts from Lady Gaga.

Star power may fuel sales, but Casey’s semiliterate prose conveys her message(s) with notable incoherence. (iPad storybook app. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Ninestars

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many.

GUTS

Young Raina is 9 when she throws up for the first time that she remembers, due to a stomach bug. Even a year later, when she is in fifth grade, she fears getting sick.

Raina begins having regular stomachaches that keep her home from school. She worries about sharing food with her friends and eating certain kinds of foods, afraid of getting sick or food poisoning. Raina’s mother enrolls her in therapy. At first Raina isn’t sure about seeing a therapist, but over time she develops healthy coping mechanisms to deal with her stress and anxiety. Her therapist helps her learn to ground herself and relax, and in turn she teaches her classmates for a school project. Amping up the green, wavy lines to evoke Raina’s nausea, Telgemeier brilliantly produces extremely accurate visual representations of stress and anxiety. Thought bubbles surround Raina in some panels, crowding her with anxious “what if”s, while in others her negative self-talk appears to be literally crushing her. Even as she copes with anxiety disorder and what is eventually diagnosed as mild irritable bowel syndrome, she experiences the typical stresses of school life, going from cheer to panic in the blink of an eye. Raina is white, and her classmates are diverse; one best friend is Korean American.

With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many. (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-545-85251-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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