Despite the frustrating lack of conclusion, the friendly art and nifty concept will leave readers eager for the next book,...

SECRET CODERS

From the Secret Coders series , Vol. 1

Hopper’s first day at Stately Academy goes terribly until her “7”-shaped earrings trigger a code in a robot bird, commanding it to display three eyes.

Classmate Eni, whose father is a software engineer, kindly explains the controlling binary code to Hopper. The user-friendly explanation takes advantage of the graphic-novel format, providing a visual alongside the narrative description. The plot makes manipulating binary a game, inviting readers to decode number sequences alongside the characters. When they decode a combination lock on a shed, Hopper and Eni enter it (against the wishes of the villainous, crotchety, old janitor) and uncover its secret content—an adorable robot programmed to clean the sidewalks. This programming too is thoroughly explained visually, then put to an unorthodox application against some kids who bully Hopper. Other villains include an over-the-top creepy visitor to the school making a mysterious demand of the principal and the student-hating principal himself. The school’s coded secrets that the protagonists unravel lead to a showdown that goes straight for cliffhanger without a hint of resolution—right when the story feels like it’s just getting going. Worse, the abbreviated story leaves little room for characterization other than introducing Hopper’s family background as conflict to be addressed in a later installment. Hopper is Asian-American, and Eni appears to be African-American.

Despite the frustrating lack of conclusion, the friendly art and nifty concept will leave readers eager for the next book, which should be able to get off to a rocketing start. (Graphic mystery. 8-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62672-276-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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