Truly, far too often school lunch ladies get a bad rap. In this case, it’s justified, and stout-stomached readers who have...

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THE LUNCH WITCH

From the Lunch Witch series , Vol. 1

A troubled student leads an evil lunch lady astray…at least temporarily.

Though Grunhilda has recipes, inherited from her witch ancestors, for Hansel-and-Gretel pie and like delicacies, at Salem Elementary she limits herself to putting floor sweepings in the meatloaf and (at least according to student rumor) substituting legless spiders for blueberries. Moved to uncharacteristic pity by the pleas of Madison, a new student who’s gotten off on such a wrong foot that she’s being demoted a grade, Grunhilda concocts what she thinks is an Intelligence potion. Instead, it turns Madison into a toad. Now what? Lucke’s cartoon panels are drawn on coarse brown paper that has been evocatively decorated with pencil shavings, ketchup, spatters of grease and less identifiable substances. They alternate between views of the matronly witch, struggling to make a go of it in a world that has lost its respect for her kind, and Madison, struggling to survive in a wetland (while developing a taste for bugs) until rescue in the form of an anti-potion can arrive. The humor is unapologetically black, and Grunhilda’s concoctions are equally unashamedly disgusting.

Truly, far too often school lunch ladies get a bad rap. In this case, it’s justified, and stout-stomached readers who have always suspected the truth should enjoy seeing how. (Graphic novel. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62991-162-5

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Papercutz

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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High-energy high jinks in a multicultural, or at least multispecies, setting.

THE CASE OF THE BATTLING BOTS

From the Tank & Fizz series

Young sleuths stumble on a demonic conspiracy to blow the lid off Slick City’s new sports arena. Just for a start.

Goblin Fizz Marlow and troll gearhead Tank Wrenchlin are convinced that slimeball schoolmate Rizzo Rawlins’ supposedly homemade battle bot illegally incorporates professional-grade code and components. Their search for proof leads them and elven trainee wizard Aleetha to several puzzles. Who is the mysterious “Codex,” and why is he (or she) supplying Rizzo as well as hacking Slick City’s computer systems to threaten disaster if the just-finished Slurp Stadium is opened for the upcoming Battle Bot Cup? How did the stadium come to be built over a magic stone that could, as old maps hint, serve as a portal to demon worlds? What can a trio of fourth-graders do, opposed by corrupt officials, a bully with a pair of hulking hench-ogres, and a local business tycoon with—as it turns out—a high-tech hand-held demon controller? Well, plenty, though not without a few missteps, help from a surprising temporary ally, and lots of climactic bot-smashing. In a slick mix of narrative blocks and panels of nonscary monsters delivering punch lines in dialogue balloons, the exploit careens along to a triumphant close.

High-energy high jinks in a multicultural, or at least multispecies, setting. (Graphic/mystery/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0813-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Another radiant outing.

SWING IT, SUNNY

From the Sunny series , Vol. 2

A home-centered sequel to Sunny Side Up (2015), with incidents joyful and otherwise in a middle schooler’s life.

The tale is set in the 1976-77 school year and framed by references to TV shows of that era (both contemporaneous and reruns, including The Six Million Dollar Man, The Brady Bunch, and Gilligan’s Island, with amusingly pithy show notes for each). The story unfolds in successive episodes of Sunny’s self-conceived The Sunny Show that confront her with domestic challenges ranging from little brother Teddy’s filled diaper (“Something Smells”) to the stormy holiday visit by formerly loving but now angry, troubled big brother Dale, come home from a military-style boarding school (“Six Million Dollar Boy”). Despite such low notes, though, the general trend is upbeat—with Gramps coming up from Florida for a visit, a sisterly, Indian-American teen neighbor named Neela Singh moving in next door (adding some diversity to the otherwise all-white main cast), and a heartening if long-distance thank-you from Dale for the pet rock Sunny gives him at Christmas being particular highlights. Using a combination of short exchanges of dialogue and frequent wordless reaction shots, the Holms again leverage simply drawn scenes colored by Pien into a loosely autobiographical narrative that is poignant and hilarious in turn and emotionally rich throughout.

Another radiant outing. (Graphic historical fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-74170-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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