From the 13th Street series , Vol. 1

An exciting series opener that should whet readers’ appetites for more.

Three cousins find themselves fighting a horde of bats.

Cousins Malia, Ivan, and Dante are spending the summer at Aunt Lucy’s house, located in fictional Gulf City’s Little Mexico neighborhood. The day is full of promise, as the children plan to visit the neighborhood’s water park. As they walk to the attraction, an old woman they meet on the way suggests they take a shortcut through an alley behind a bakery, but the street they emerge on—13th Street—is empty. Feeling lost, Malia uses her phone’s map app and realizes they’re no longer en route to the pool. Instead, they’ve been transported to a strange place infested by huge bats with astonishingly bad breath. The cousins must use Dante’s video game experience, Ivan’s creativity, Malia’s leadership, and the help of some fantastical characters to survive the terrifying bats and return home to Aunt Lucy’s house. Bowles gently introduces a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary throughout this chapter book. Encouraging messages greet readers after some chapters, along with occasional progress markers. In addition, a summary of the number of chapters, pages, and words read gives readers a sense of accomplishment at the conclusion, and the three protagonists speak directly to readers, encouraging them to take up another book. Three additional activities aim to further readers’ engagement with the story and develop critical reading skills.

An exciting series opener that should whet readers’ appetites for more. (Horror. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294780-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020


From the Fitz and Cleo series , Vol. 1

Cute as a boo-ton—if a tad stereotypical.

Ghost siblings ghoul it up in a new graphic-novel series.

A “THUMP” from the attic sends siblings Fitz and Cleo up to investigate. The spooky vibes delight Cleo, so she improvises “The Spooky Attic Song.” Fitz tries to shush his sister so they can maintain “the element of surprise” as they approach the sound’s source. The mystery is solved: It’s a cat! Cleo promptly scoops the (seemingly mortal) cat up and names him Mister Boo. Fitz has reservations but relents when Mister Boo sits on his head. Ten subsequent chapters, varying between four and seven pages in length, chronicle the trio’s further shenanigans. Husband-and-wife team Stutzman and Fox create an entertaining early graphic novel in the vein of Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly series. Though there are occasional speech bubbles, dialogue is most often connected to the speaker by a solid black line. Sentences are short, and there are at most two speakers per panel. Additionally, with no more than six panels per page and simple backgrounds, the story provides adequate support to emerging readers. Fox’s expressive illustrations and clever use of panel layouts effectively build off the humor in Stutzman’s text. Cleo is depicted with a purple bow; Fitz with a baseball cap and glasses. Unfortunately, their personalities as well as their appearances play into gender stereotypes.

Cute as a boo-ton—if a tad stereotypical. (Graphic fantasy. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23944-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021


From the Monster and Boy series , Vol. 1

No need to be afraid of monsters after reading this sweet and unusual friendship story.

A boy discovers that monsters are real—and that one lives under his bed.

The monster and the boy—no names given—share a bedroom, but they have never met. The monster is nocturnal and has lived under the boy’s bed for many years; he knows the sound of the boy’s voice and loves the smell of his dirty socks. One night the boy’s mother reads her son a book about monsters, and she tells him that there is no such thing as monsters. Knowing this is untrue, the monster decides to introduce himself. Predictably, this doesn’t go as well as the monster expects, and when the boy screams, the monster swallows him in a panic. This is distressing for both the monster (who just lost his only friend) and the boy (who now finds himself trapped inside a stomach). Eventually the monster coughs the boy out—only to discover the boy is now grasshopper-sized. Humor ensues. In archly amusing fashion, the author breaks the fourth wall—this is marked by teal-colored page backgrounds—reassuring readers during potentially scary parts of the book, filling in background details, or collegially including them in aspects of the storytelling. Teal-flecked grayscale cartoons appear on almost every page, making this a solid choice for new independent readers. As depicted on the cover, the boy has tightly coiled brown curls and pink skin.

No need to be afraid of monsters after reading this sweet and unusual friendship story. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21783-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Godwin Books

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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