Roman’s quirks may irritate a few readers, but many children will run to their own scratch pads to draw fierce bunnies,...

ASTRONAUT ACADEMY

ZERO GRAVITY

From the Astronaut Academy series , Vol. 1

This book will make readers want to flip through the author’s doodle pad, in case he has ideas that are even wilder.

Dinosaurs show up early in the book. They’re in outer space. They come with wheels, so students at Astronaut Academy can race them. The school also has a time-traveling panda and a league of villains in footy pajamas. There is a plot here—something about a student being chased by his robot double—but Roman is more interested in playing with language than anything else. He uses intentionally awkward syntax (“ATTACKING is something frowned upon by people because someone may get hurt in the process”) and made-up spelling: At one point he even uses “bee” as a verb, as in “To bee or not to bee.” Some readers may be looking for a more focused plot—the author seems just to be finding his footing in the early chapters—but it’s hard not to like a school where Wearing Cute Hats is on the lesson plan. Fans of Harry Potter or Archie comics might appreciate the romances among the students. As in those series, the couples don’t get together in the first volume, but there are talking bunnies to see in the meantime. Some of them know karate chops.

Roman’s quirks may irritate a few readers, but many children will run to their own scratch pads to draw fierce bunnies, wearing cute hats. (Graphic novel. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59643-620-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: First Second/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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