Between the creativity-encouraging coding lessons and the character-driven plotlines, this sequel charms from PenDown to...

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PATHS & PORTALS

From the Secret Coders series , Vol. 2

Following Secret Coders (2015), Hopper, Josh, and Eni unlock more of Stately Academy’s secrets—but they learn they aren’t the only ones doing so.

Starting off right at the cliffhanger from the previous book, the multicultural protagonists—Asian-American Hopper, African-American Eni, and racially indeterminate Josh—must code their way out of custodian Mr. Bee’s challenge. Through teamwork and trial and error, they succeed, and Mr. Bee gives them a secret history of the secret, abandoned Bee School beneath Stately. After an efficient rundown on the programming language Logo, he shows the kids the artistic possibilities of code, a lesson promptly used by Hopper to cheat on her Chinese homework. She’s found out, but trash duty with Mr. Bee is an ineffectual punishment now that it has become programming with Professor Bee, and even Josh misbehaves his way into joining. With this second volume, character development comes to the fore, and a central interpersonal storyline finds the three unifying into a trio. Helping to resolve the simmering conflict between Hopper and Josh are encounters with rugby team bullies, who walk a line between comical and intimidating in a way that serves tone while maintaining tension. Holmes’ green, gray, and white panels convey characterization, action, and coding principles with equal ease.

Between the creativity-encouraging coding lessons and the character-driven plotlines, this sequel charms from PenDown to PenUp. (Graphic fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62672-340-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in...

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NEW KID

From the New Kid series , Vol. 1

Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity.

He may be the new kid, but as an African-American boy from Washington Heights, that stigma entails so much more than getting lost on the way to homeroom. Riverdale Academy Day School, located at the opposite end of Manhattan, is a world away, and Jordan finds himself a stranger in a foreign land, where pink clothing is called salmon, white administrators mistake a veteran African-American teacher for the football coach, and white classmates ape African-American Vernacular English to make themselves sound cool. Jordan’s a gifted artist, and his drawings blend with the narrative to give readers a full sense of his two worlds and his methods of coping with existing in between. Craft skillfully employs the graphic-novel format to its full advantage, giving his readers a delightful and authentic cast of characters who, along with New York itself, pop off the page with vibrancy and nuance. Shrinking Jordan to ant-sized proportions upon his entering the school cafeteria, for instance, transforms the lunchroom into a grotesque Wonderland in which his lack of social standing becomes visually arresting and viscerally uncomfortable.

An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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