Not much more than a vehicle created to spotlight middle school versions of DC Comics heroes and baddies, but fans, at...

STUDY HALL OF JUSTICE

From the DC Comics Secret Hero Society series , Vol. 1

Young students with oddly familiar names team up to investigate the nefarious agenda of their school’s administration in this batty series opener.

In fact, hardly has Bruce Wayne hung a couple of bats in his new locker at Gotham City’s exclusive Ducard Academy than glimpses of lurking ninjas, an encounter with cream-pie–bearing bully Joe Kerr, and other signs raise his suspicion that something’s not right. With plenty of help from exchange student Diana Prince and hayseed classmate Clark Kent, he does indeed expose a scheme to recruit young villains—explained in detail by principal Ra’s Al Ghul—before he escapes in the wake of a climactic ninja battle. Along the way Bruce and company try out for extracurricular activities (“Boys’ sports: All pain, some gain! To sign up, see Coach Zod”), attend classes taught by the likes of Alice in Wonderland–obsessed Jervis Tetch, and adopt distinctive Halloween costumes for the climactic dust-up. Spun out in a mix of journal entries, chat transcripts, screenshots, and panels of comic art as loose as the plotline, the tale hurtles its inconclusive way to a close that leaves Bruce looking forward to the bats, shadows, and mysteries of summer camp. Stay tuned.

Not much more than a vehicle created to spotlight middle school versions of DC Comics heroes and baddies, but fans, at least, will enjoy catching the references. (Graphic fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-82501-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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A kid adventurer with a disability makes this steampunk offering stand out.

BRIGHTSTORM

From the Brightstorm series , Vol. 1

Orphaned twins, an adventurer dad lost to an ice monster, and an airship race around the world.

In Lontown, 12-year-old twins Arthur and Maudie learn that their explorer father has gone missing on his quest to reach South Polaris, the crew of his sky-ship apparently eaten by monsters. As he’s accused of sabotage, their father’s property is forfeit. The disgraced twins are sent off to live in a garret in a scene straight out of an Edwardian novel à la A Little Princess. Maudie has the consolation of her engineering skills, but all Arthur wants is to be an adventurer like his father. A chance to join Harriet Culpepper’s journey to South Polaris might offer excitement and let him clear his father’s name—if only he can avoid getting eaten by intelligent ice monsters. Though some steampunk set dressing is appropriately over-the-top (such as a flying house, thinly depicted but charming), adaptive tools for Arthur’s disability are wonderfully realistic. His iron arm is a standard, sometimes painful passive prosthesis. The crew adapts the airship galley for Arthur’s needs, even creating a spiked chopping board. Off the ship, Arthur and Maudie meet people and animals in vignettes that are appealingly rendered but slight. Harriet teaches the white twins respect for the cultures they encounter on these travels, though they are never more than observers of non-Lontowners’ different ways.

A kid adventurer with a disability makes this steampunk offering stand out. (Steampunk. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-00564-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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This oblique homage to a now-creaky classic is lit by friendships, heroic feats, and exceptional art.

KENNY & THE BOOK OF BEASTS

From the Kenny & the Dragon series

A long-eared young hero takes on a witch bent on trapping rare legendary creatures in a magical book.

Not so much a pastiche of E. Nesbit’s short story “Book of Beasts” as an original novel with cribbed elements, this adventuresome outing regathers and expands the animal cast of DiTerlizzi’s 2008 reworking of The Reluctant Dragon (titled Kenny & the Dragon) for a fresh challenge. As if coping with a dozen baby sisters and tending the bookshop of his questing mentor, Sir George E. Badger, aren’t hard enough, Kenny Rabbit feels abandoned by his best friend, dessert-loving dragon Grahame—who happily recognizes the supposedly mythical manticore that springs from the pages of a grimoire as an acquaintance from olden days. Avid to collect magical creatures of all sorts, the book’s owner, sinister opossum Eldritch Nesbit, tempts Kenny into an ill-considered bargain. But once he sees not only the manticore, but Grahame too snapped up, Kenny joins allies, notably his redoubtable crush Charlotte the squirrel, in a rumbustious rescue that also frees a host of unicorns and other long-vanished marvels. Aside from the odd griffin or al-mi’raj (a horned rabbit from Persian lore and an outlier in an otherwise Eurocentric cast), everyone in the lively, accomplished illustrations, from Kenny’s impossibly adorable sibs on, sports amusingly anthropomorphic dress and body language.

This oblique homage to a now-creaky classic is lit by friendships, heroic feats, and exceptional art. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4169-8316-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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