It’s visually engaging as always, but it’s not the strongest offering in the series.

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CUCUMBER QUEST: THE MELODY KINGDOM

From the Cucumber Quest series , Vol. 3

In this third series installment, a band of unlikely heroes embarks upon a quest in a magical, musical land.

Hailing from the Doughnut Kingdom, rabbit-eared, magic wand–wielding Cucumber and his fierce and feisty sister Almond are on a crusade to save their world from the impending devastation of the Nightmare Knight. Their most recent adventure took them to the Ripple Kingdom, where they met Princess Nautilus and retrieved the Dream Sword, which needs to be signed by six more princesses. Now the gang has ventured to the Melody Kingdom in search of Princess Piano, but soon they discover they must face an array of not-so-nefarious foes: the psychedelic Noisemaster, the Mutemaster, and vainglorious Count Legato. In this adaptation of a former webcomic designed entirely in Photoshop, D.G.’s illustrations utilize an arresting palette of enthralling Day-Glo tones. While each offering recounts a complete quest, the action in this volume seems propelled by a confused silliness rather than intentional plotting, leaving the eventual salvation of the realm feeling like a frustrating impossibility. In each volume, maps of each individual kingdom are provided, but readers may long for a map of the whole realm as well. Those familiar with the offbeat humor of cartoons like Adventure Time will be easy converts and should feel at home in this kooky world.

It’s visually engaging as always, but it’s not the strongest offering in the series. (Graphic fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-834-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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

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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