Unnerving and uncanny—just as it should be.

THE NUTCRACKER AND THE MOUSE KING

THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

A retelling breathes new life into E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Christmas classic.

Every Christmas Eve, mysterious Godfather Drosselmeier brings Marie Stahlbaum and her brother, Fritz, handmade gifts. Marie quickly discovers a human-shaped nutcracker under the Christmas tree and immediately becomes enamored. That night, she stumbles upon Drosselmeier performing a magic ritual that brings a huge, fuchsia mouse king into her home to finish a long-fought battle with her toys, led by her beloved—and now quite alive—nutcracker. Marie falls ill after she rescues him, and each day of her recovery, Drosselmeier spins a bedside tale of a princess cursed to transform into a human nutcracker and the astronomer’s son who saves her by embodying the curse himself. Each night, Marie makes a sacrifice to the terrifying mouse king, who demands payment for sparing her beloved nutcracker. A finale that inextricably weaves these two stories together leaves readers to determine for themselves the line between fantasy and reality. Andrewson makes smart choices with her adaptation, refocusing the story on passionate and empathetic Marie, who has the most personality of all the fairy tale–esque characters. Her distinctive illustration style is well matched to Hoffmann’s story, with vivid colors, wavy linework, and exaggerated facial expressions that all reinforce the trippy, unsettling plot. The majority of characters are White-presenting while there is some variety of skin color among secondary and background characters.

Unnerving and uncanny—just as it should be. (author's note) (Graphic fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59643-681-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Kids who already dig the series will probably like this one.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE COSMIC BEYOND

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 4

Jack Sullivan and his friends battle interdimensional evil in a Cthulhu-inspired Christmas special.

Readers coming to the series midstream can breathe easy. Jack gives them a “real-deal recap” right away, explaining all about the Monster Apocalypse, the zombie plague, and the possibility of other human survivors holed up in the Statue of Liberty. This new installment includes sledding disasters, the gang’s attempt to introduce monsters to the wonders of Christmas, and a human girl who always sympathized with villains attempting to unleash unspeakable horrors on Earth. There are several appeal factors for readers who need some pizzazz with their plot; monsterrific illustrations that take the place of description or exposition, liberal use of italics and ALL CAPS, up-to-the-second pop-culture references, and some tame gross-out humor. The cast is racially diverse according to the illustrations; Jack and Dirk look white, Quint appears black, and June, who “knows Spanish, because her parents spoke it at home,” is implied Latina. However, the Christmas-centered plot and the casual usage of “lame” as an insult may prevent some readers from connecting with the story. A few moral lessons about the importance of friendship are scattered throughout, but depth and nuanced characterization come across as halfhearted gestures that are of secondary importance compared to monsters, weapons, and putatively awesome adventures.

Kids who already dig the series will probably like this one. (Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-4252-9208-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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