Not a necessary purchase but may appeal to middle school readers looking for a different kind of superpowered adventure.

READ REVIEW

TSU AND THE OUTLIERS

A nonverbal boy and his sasquatch buddy are pursued by a sinister organization in Johnson’s (co-author: Original Fake, 2016, etc.) solo graphic novel debut.

Tsu, a boy who rides the “short bus” to school, may not speak but still communicates effectively with expressions and gestures. When his disability (never specified in the text) makes him a target for bullies in his rural town, he escapes to the woods and the company of a reclusive creature, marvelously depicted as being as gnarled and massive as the ancient trees he dwells among. Tsu’s own hidden powers attract the attention of an unscrupulous chimpanzeelike scientist and his sinuous, venomous chupacabralike sidekick who hunt “outliers” for mysterious purposes. The oddball premise is well-matched to the scratchy, ink-heavy art accented by monochrome color washes, reminiscent of 1950s horror comics. Unfortunately, important details of the narrative are muddled and inconsistent, the reasons for Tsu’s final choices are unclear, and the unspecified cause of his muteness makes the eventual cure potentially troubling. Nonetheless, Tsu’s loneliness and isolation, and the sweetness of the bond with his unlikely friend, are both poignant and potent. The open ending reads like the setup for a series. Tsu’s mother is named Hana, and their names, plus a passing reference by a bully to speaking gibberish, may be cues that they are Japanese.

Not a necessary purchase but may appeal to middle school readers looking for a different kind of superpowered adventure. (Graphic fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-941250-24-2

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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A first-rate visual reframing: sensitive, artistically brilliant, and as charged as its enigmatic predecessor with profound...

THE GIVER

From the Giver Quartet series

An eerie graphic version of the Newbery Award–winning classic.

Russell (Murder Mysteries and Other Stories, 2015, etc.) pays no more attention than Lowry (Looking Back, 2016, etc.) did to continuity of detail or to justifying the counterintuitive notion that memories can be shed by transmitting them, but without taking significant liberties he skillfully captures the original’s full, creeping horror. By depicting human figures with uncommonly precise realism, bearing calm, smiling demeanors and moving through tidy 1950s style settings, he establishes an almost trite air of utopian normality at the outset…then proceeds to undermine it with disquieting (to say the least) incidents capped by an explicit view of Jonas’ serene dad “releasing” a supernumerary newborn by ramming a hypodermic into its head. He also neatly solves the color issue by composing his many small sequential scenes in blue pencil outlines with occasional pale washes—which makes Jonas’ disturbing ability to “see beyond,” from the red in an apple and a classmate’s hair to the garish orange memories the Giver downloads to his brain, startlingly vivid and presages the polychrome wilderness into which he ultimately vanishes. Jonas and the rest of the cast are uniformly light-skinned and generically European of feature, but that is explicitly established as part of the hideous scenario.

A first-rate visual reframing: sensitive, artistically brilliant, and as charged as its enigmatic predecessor with profound challenges to mind and heart. (interviews with the creators) (Graphic dystopian fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-544-15788-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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A bit of a sophomore slump but not enough to dampen fans’ spirits for subsequent adventures.

THE MIDDLE-ROUTE RUN

From the Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo series , Vol. 2

In this sophomore effort, skeleton Rickety Stitch and his amorphous amigo attempt to solve the mystery of Rickety’s shadowy past.

Reanimated skeleton and bard Rickety Stitch, along with his gelatinous companion, Goo, is still trying to find mythical Epoli in hopes of learning about his formerly living self. To get there, the pair must journey up the Middle-Route Run, a precarious path where travelers race through endless danger and vandals. Rickety and Goo join a musical ensemble on a caravan transporting a vast, dubiously obtained treasure down the route; double-crosses, hijinks, and surprises ensue. Propelled by constant, comical action, most of the scenes, although busy, only offer enough to tantalize and not satisfy; Rickety discovers only the barest tidbits about his past, leaving readers hopeful that more will be revealed in later offerings. Evinced through large, bright panels, the art is alluringly vivid and kinetic, with a strong animated feel. While the previous volume was suffused with wonderfully irreverent humor, however, this one shies away from such cheek, veering into middle-grade–level jokes and gentler insults. Readers expecting banter on par with Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona might be a bit discouraged to see it more comparable to Jeff Smith’s Bone.

A bit of a sophomore slump but not enough to dampen fans’ spirits for subsequent adventures. (Graphic fantasy. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-55616-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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