From the Kid Legends series

Lively glimpses of formative moments and budding talents.

Sixteen young authors-to-be face challenges ranging from bullies to a really big spider in this series’ fourth entry.

All write, wrote, or have written for young audiences. The spider, an aptly named Hercules baboon tarantula, bit “Ronald” Tolkien during a family stay in South Africa; bullies improbably met their matches in Charles “Lewis Carroll” Dodgson and Edgar Allen Poe; others struggled with shyness (J.K. Rowling), parental death or abandonment (Zora Neale Hurston, Mark Twain, Lucy Maud Montgomery), birth defects (Sherman Alexie), poverty (several), racial prejudice (Langston Hughes), and other obstacles. The pseudonymous Stabler also points to important early influences, from an indomitable grandmother on Hughes to comics and comic strips on Stan Lee and Jeff Kinney, as well as at watershed moments such as Beverly Cleary’s epiphanic discovery in third grade that reading is fun and literary kickoffs like 7-year-old Jo Rowling’s “The Seven Cursed Diamonds.” Broadly read preteens will recognize the names and have no trouble connecting these observations and select incidents with each writer’s best known works. Horner supplies mildly comical caricatures and gags on nearly every page: “No more flies. Today I dine on human flesh!” exclaims that tarantula, leaping at a bug-eyed future fantasist. Brief anecdotes about 28 more writers bring up the rear.

Lively glimpses of formative moments and budding talents. (index and bibliography not seen) (Collective biography. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59474-987-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017


From the They Did What? series

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015


A sincere, genuine, and uplifting book that affirms the importance of being true to yourself.

Middle school drama hits hard in this coming-of-age graphic memoir.

Natural competitor Misty has faced off against the boys for years, always coming out on top, but now they’re moving on without her into the land of full-contact football. Never one to back away from a challenge, Misty resolves to join the team and convinces her best friend, Bree, to join her. While Misty pours herself into practicing, obviously uninterested Bree—who was motivated more by getting to be around boys than doing sports—drifts toward popular queen bee Ava, creating an uneasy dynamic. Feeling estranged from Bree, Misty, who typically doesn’t think much about her appearance, tries to navigate seventh grade—even experimenting with a more traditionally feminine gender expression—while also mastering her newfound talent for tackling and facing hostility from some boys on the team. Readers with uncommon interests will relate to the theme of being the odd one out. Social exclusion and cutting remarks can be traumatic, so it’s therapeutic to see Misty begin to embrace her differences instead of trying to fit in with frenemies who don’t value her. The illustrations are alive with color and rich emotional details, pairing perfectly with the heartfelt storytelling. The husband-and-wife duo’s combined efforts will appeal to fans of Raina Telgemeier and Shannon Hale. Main characters present as White; some background characters read as Black.

A sincere, genuine, and uplifting book that affirms the importance of being true to yourself. (Graphic memoir. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-306469-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

Close Quickview