A quick adventure for readers inclined toward flights of fancy.


Beneath And Beyond

Stricklen’s YA novel follows two young boys as they adventure into another world.

Blackwater Pond has a bad reputation. Mysterious whisperings taunt its visitors, and the seemingly bottomless center is rumored to lead straight to hell. When Brian, 16, and his younger brother, Tommy, 12, go swimming, the pond seems to swallow Tommy whole. Most assume Tommy drowned, but Brian is convinced he’s alive. Lured by the pond, he wades into its depths and is sucked down into the world beneath the water. There, he encounters two warring factions, the Thorks, who settled the land, and the Trediarians, who maintain control by sacrificing anyone who doesn’t believe in Nimbus, a carnivorous cloud and godlike figure. Brian, realizing that the Trediarians kidnapped Tommy, manages to befriend the Trediarian princess. With her help and that of a quirky Thork named Ebil, they rescue Tommy and set off into the wilds to try to make their way home. Stricklen uses devices from other successful fantasy books, such as falling through a hole into another realm, underground dwellers battling monstrous evil forces, and invented words and creatures. Though not especially original, those devices lend themselves to fanciful storytelling, particularly when describing the surreal surroundings of this distant land. And while the writing isn’t dazzling either, Stricklen skillfully embeds morality lessons and pearls of wisdom throughout the narrative, usually through Ebil’s rants—“So many beliefs and all know they are right. It will never be settled in a fight or display of might”—which parents of young readers will appreciate.

A quick adventure for readers inclined toward flights of fancy.

Pub Date: July 1, 2011


Page Count: 132

Publisher: Beachhead Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2013

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Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger.


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 6

The monster-fighting gang from Wakefield departs on a post-apocalyptic road trip.

In this sixth installment of the heavily illustrated, Netflix-adapted series, quirky Jack Sullivan and his friends June, Quint, and Dirk finally leave their creature-ridden town in search of the ultimate baddie, Thrull, who previously deceived them. The quartet takes their tricked-out ride (an armored RV named Bad Mama) onto the open road (with Jack’s Zombie Squad in tow) to find the Outpost, where they believe a certain monster will be able to give them the location of the evil Tower where they believe Thrull now resides. Of course, the journey is littered with all kinds of nightmarish beasts and pitfalls (including an epic water park battle and slime-dripping baby monster), but the kids persist, armed with their endless gadgets and quick thinking. As the group races toward Thrull, the action culminates with an achingly tantalizing cliffhanger; expect audible groans and vociferous demands for the next installment. Fans of this series will revel in this fast-paced escapade with its recognizable black-and-white illustrations and trademark humor. Readers new to the series or those who are only familiar with the animated show may be a bit put off by this later volume that relies heavily on its own language of monsters and weapons. Jack, June, and Dirk are light-skinned; Quint is dark-skinned.

Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger. (Graphic fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984835-34-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


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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