Masterful artwork and nuanced verse invite readers to hold their breath and dive deep. (Picture book. 6-10)


Sophia knows all the sea’s secrets (its “dragons,” “floating forests,” “clowns,” “angels,” and “four-eyed butterflies”), and she invites readers to follow her deep underwater to discover what lies full fathom five.

Kaleidoscopic illustrations teem with cerulean colors, shifting shapes, and swirling patterns, evoking oceanic fantasies filled with mysterious sea creatures, treasure, magic, and transformations. Sophia’s ebony hair drifts with the current, her porcelain skin glows, and her calm voice coaxes readers down, down, down, where “tentacles, / antennae and teeth disappear into / darknesss…and an abyss becomes / a bottomless pit of possibilities….” Readers feel woozily enchanted by this little snow-white siren and the myriad underwater miracles as they descend. Shafts of white space, often highlighting the narrative verse, administer welcome breaths of air amid a density of fish and flotsam. Luxbacher’s graphite, watercolor, and acrylic illustrations (composed digitally, printed using archival inks and papers, then enhanced with soft-colored pencil and found collage materials) offer opportunity for interpretation and pleasurable scrutiny. Why and how is a little bird trailing Sophia all the way to the ocean’s floor? Who is Sophia’s reassuring mermaid twin? Readers ride waves of wonder all the way back to dry land, where they find Sophia snuggled in bed with her mother.

Masterful artwork and nuanced verse invite readers to hold their breath and dive deep. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77306-014-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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From the Max Meow series , Vol. 2

Max and Mindy are back in action and must face old foes and nefarious new look-alikes.

Max Meow, feline resident of Kittyopolis, is secretly the superhero Cat Crusader, and he’s excited to no longer work solo. His BSFF (Best Science Friend Forever), brown-skinned human Mindy, has gained powers and created her own superhero persona, Science Kitty. Problem is, she puts so much pressure on herself to be perfect that she’s too scared to be a hero out in public. When havoc is wreaked at Food Fest, followed by a series of robberies, not only is the world of donut sales in peril, but the whole city is in danger. Old and new villains team up, and Cat Crusader will need Science Kitty’s skills—even if they are imperfect—in order to save the day and the donuts. This book tries to do a lot and isn’t always successful: An overabundance of plot points and characters makes it lack focus and overall cohesion. The more the story progresses, the messier and more jumbled it becomes, bogging down the pace. The lesson about the pitfalls of perfectionism does add some depth, and the brightly colored cartoon art plus the combination of silliness, science, and superpowers make this tale inviting. Fans of the first book may enjoy spending more time with these cool cats, but hopefully their next adventure will be smoother.

Overstuffed. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12108-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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