A quirky mystery that does not quite hit its mark.

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THE MONSTER SISTERS AND THE MYSTERY OF THE UNLOCKED CAVE

Two sisters try to solve the mystery behind monster attacks on their Canadian home.

In this graphic offering, siblings Enid Jupiter and Lyra Gotham’s beloved city of Victoria is plagued by such destructive creatures as a hairy squid, a giant yellow reptile, and mysterious Mirror Masons. Aided by a cache of clever mystery-solving tools, the girls swing around Vancouver Island on magical vines and find clues alongside interesting historical facts, as when Enid and Lyra see Gyro Park’s large statues roar to life while readers learn about the actual landmarks. This middle-grade graphic novel has expressive and bright illustrations, housed in large and tidy panels laid out with easy-to-read text bubbles. Gaudin offers what should be a fascinating mix of intriguing elements: imaginative monster battles, fun historical facts, a gently spooky mystery, and a warm emphasis on sisterhood. Unfortunately, it has an overall scattershot feel. The girls’ investigations lack clear endpoints, with one monster mystery tenuously dissolving into the next without any definitive resolution. Enid and Lyra both present white; there are few other human characters in their adventures, although the ones they encounter are exclusively white. While a nod is given to using the Indigenous names of British Columbia’s landmarks, no visual representations of these peoples are shown.

A quirky mystery that does not quite hit its mark. (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2226-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low.

DOG MAN AND CAT KID

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 4

Recasting Dog Man and his feline ward, Li’l Petey, as costumed superheroes, Pilkey looks East of Eden in this follow-up to Tale of Two Kitties (2017).

The Steinbeck novel’s Cain/Abel motif gets some play here, as Petey, “world’s evilest cat” and cloned Li’l Petey’s original, tries assiduously to tempt his angelic counterpart over to the dark side only to be met, ultimately at least, by Li’l Petey’s “Thou mayest.” (There are also occasional direct quotes from the novel.) But inner struggles between good and evil assume distinctly subordinate roles to riotous outer ones, as Petey repurposes robots built for a movie about the exploits of Dog Man—“the thinking man’s Rin Tin Tin”—while leading a general rush to the studio’s costume department for appropriate good guy/bad guy outfits in preparation for the climactic battle. During said battle and along the way Pilkey tucks in multiple Flip-O-Rama inserts as well as general gags. He lists no fewer than nine ways to ask “who cut the cheese?” and includes both punny chapter titles (“The Bark Knight Rises”) and nods to Hamilton and Mary Poppins. The cartoon art, neatly and brightly colored by Garibaldi, is both as easy to read as the snappy dialogue and properly endowed with outsized sound effects, figures displaying a range of skin colors, and glimpses of underwear (even on robots).

More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93518-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

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What a wag.

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DOG MAN

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 1

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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