A light read with a not inconsiderable punch.

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NICK THE SIDEKICK

Nick never gives up faith in his own abilities even when others try to relegate him to the sidelines in this oddball, quick-paced graphic novel.

In a dramatic, full-page panel, readers are introduced to caped hero Nick, silhouetted against the moon, standing atop a building—or is it a garbage can? The omniscient narrator shifts gears: If he’s not a superhero, Nick must be a sidekick. But Nick rejects the typical role, breaking the fourth wall and forcing the narrator to backtrack. Left turns and surprises such as this abound in this irreverent romp, which features a mostly white cast. Readers are treated to a colorful retelling of Nick’s early life and his special ability: excellent hearing powered by superbig ears. While those ears appear comical—and boy, does Nick hear about it—they can be used to good effect. Often cranky, sometimes dispirited, Nick will impress readers most with his bounce-back, never-give-up attitude, especially when he’s paired with vainglorious buffoon Super Fantastic Guy. Well-paced panels, vibrant colors, and tongue-in-cheek asides keep the action popping along. In most scenes, Super Fantastic Guy dwarfs Nick, but no one outranks him. In fact, the duo might just start to work together—just not before one gets his comeuppance and the other his reward. Nick, Super Fantastic Guy, and the villains all present white, with people of color largely limited to one journalist and bystanders.

A light read with a not inconsiderable punch. (Graphic fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77138-355-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment.

CAT DAD, KING OF THE GOBLINS

A pair of sisters and a froggy sidekick go up against a horde of fungal jungle dwellers in this frantically paced Canadian import.

When Mom transforms Dad into a cat, 10-year-old Luey, her leggy green friend, Phil, and little sister Miri chase him through a closet door and down a jungle path into a maze of tunnels. They manage to rescue their errant parent from the maroon-colored, cat-worshiping goblins that had overrun the garden. (They are not the “mythological” sort, explains Wilson, but sentient mushrooms dressed in towels.) The three put most of their pursuers to flight by rubbing Dad’s fur the wrong way to turn him into a raving, furry maniac (the rest flee at the closet door, screaming “IT’S THE MOM CREATURE! RETREAT!!”). Captured in multiple, sometimes overly small panels of garishly colored cartoon art, the action—not to mention the internal logic—is sometimes hard to follow. Still, dragging along their timorous but canny buddy, the dark-skinned, big-haired sisters dash into danger with commendable vim, and readers will cheer when they come out triumphant on the other side.

This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment. (afterword) (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-927668-11-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Koyama Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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