A sweet-mannered debut with plenty of lift, despite the abrupt and wide-open ending.

MADDY KETTLE

THE ADVENTURE OF THE THIMBLEWITCH

From the Maddy Kettle series , Vol. 1

Intrepid young Maddy encounters goblins, flying whales, and allies ranging from a friendly vampire bat to a pair of “cloud cartographers” in this kickoff chapter.

It’s bad enough that her mild-mannered parents have been transformed into kangaroo rats by the fearsome Thimblewitch—when they’re kidnapped by spider goblins, along with her beloved floating spadefoot toad, Ralph, there’s nothing for it but to set off to the rescue. Traveling with two chance-met balloonist mapmakers, Maddy is amazed to discover that there’s a whole unsuspected world in and above the clouds. But more surprises await: Though Orchard draws both the witch and the goblins with sharp teeth and menacing red eyes, when Maddy tracks her down, the witch turns out to be a well-meaning tinkerer whose magic has gone awry. Moreover, the goblins are skittish but not hostile creatures desperate to replace the stolen power source that keeps their smog-belching city afloat. In return for Ralph and having her parents restored to their original forms, Maddy flies off into future episodes to recover the goblins’ magic. The tale is a stream of imaginative twists and aerial wonders, flowing along easily in a mix of full-page scenes and large sequential panels of lucidly drawn action and pithy dialogue.

A sweet-mannered debut with plenty of lift, despite the abrupt and wide-open ending. (Graphic fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60309-072-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock”...

THE SINGING ROCK & OTHER BRAND-NEW FAIRY TALES

The theme of persistence (for better or worse) links four tales of magic, trickery, and near disasters.

Lachenmeyer freely borrows familiar folkloric elements, subjecting them to mildly comical twists. In the nearly wordless “Hip Hop Wish,” a frog inadvertently rubs a magic lamp and finds itself saddled with an importunate genie eager to shower it with inappropriate goods and riches. In the title tale, an increasingly annoyed music-hating witch transforms a persistent minstrel into a still-warbling cow, horse, sheep, goat, pig, duck, and rock in succession—then is horrified to catch herself humming a tune. Athesius the sorcerer outwits Warthius, a rival trying to steal his spells via a parrot, by casting silly ones in Ig-pay Atin-lay in the third episode, and in the finale, a painter’s repeated efforts to create a flattering portrait of an ogre king nearly get him thrown into a dungeon…until he suddenly understands what an ogre’s idea of “flattering” might be. The narratives, dialogue, and sound effects leave plenty of elbow room in Blocker’s big, brightly colored panels for the expressive animal and human(ish) figures—most of the latter being light skinned except for the golden genie, the blue ogre, and several people of color in the “Sorcerer’s New Pet.”

Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock” music. (Graphic short stories. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59643-750-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more.

LONG DISTANCE

After moving to a new city, a girl attends a wilderness camp to help her make new friends.

When astronomy-obsessed 9-year-old Vega’s dad Wes gets a new job, the family moves from Portland to Seattle. Vega is not happy about this change and doesn’t want to leave her best friend behind, worrying they will grow apart. Vega’s dad Javi thinks making new friends will help her adjust, so he signs her up for Camp Very Best Friend, which is designed to help introverted local children build new friendships. Vega is not exactly eager to go but makes a deal with Wes, agreeing to try out camp as long as he tries to make a new friend too. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary outdoor adventure, and Vega and her fellow campers try to figure out what is really going on. The story smoothly incorporates STEM facts with insets on the page to define and highlight terms or tools. An unexpected twist toward the end of this fast-paced adventure that reveals the truth behind the camp will surprise readers. The clean, bright artwork is enhanced by panels of varying shapes and clear, easy-to-follow speech bubbles. Race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are not explicitly addressed; characters’ names and physical appearances indicate a broadly diverse cast starting with brown-skinned Vega and her two dads.

A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more. (Graphic fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5566-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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