Cassandra’s struggles and triumphs make this an entertaining series opener with broad appeal

READ REVIEW

CASSANDRA STEPS OUT

From the Cassandra: Animal Psychic series , Vol. 1

French author-illustrator team Bottier and Canac bring a new graphic-novel series across the pond with this first volume.

At 14, Cassandra is in for some big and largely unwelcome changes. Her single mom is getting serious with a new partner, whose own daughter is not a fan of Cassandra’s, creating tension at home. Meanwhile, her best friend has just announced she is moving away. Through it all Cassandra questions whether now is the time to embrace her power. This Cassandra is no harbinger of doom, although she does have a unique gift: the ability to communicate with animals in images and feelings. Compelled to act when she sees a poster of a missing tabby called Titus, Cassandra takes on her first case, using her psychic ability to track Titus down with the help of Miss Dolly, her beloved Old English sheepdog (incorrectly identified in the backmatter as an English shepherd and as having a bobbed tail), and some new friends met along the way. The full-color paneled illustrations are vibrant, with a touch of anime inspiration. Though the tale turns preachy at times, the teenage protagonists grappling with angst and change combine with the fast-paced graphic form to make this a great hi-lo option for younger YA readers as well as middle-grade audiences. Brown-skinned Cassandra’s mom presents white, suggesting Cassandra’s either biracial or adopted, and her best friend presents East Asian in the illustrations.

Cassandra’s struggles and triumphs make this an entertaining series opener with broad appeal . (Graphic fantasy. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-4397-3

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE SKELETON ROAD

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 6

The monster-fighting gang from Wakefield departs on a post-apocalyptic road trip.

In this sixth installment of the heavily illustrated, Netflix-adapted series, quirky Jack Sullivan and his friends June, Quint, and Dirk finally leave their creature-ridden town in search of the ultimate baddie, Thrull, who previously deceived them. The quartet takes their tricked-out ride (an armored RV named Bad Mama) onto the open road (with Jack’s Zombie Squad in tow) to find the Outpost, where they believe a certain monster will be able to give them the location of the evil Tower where they believe Thrull now resides. Of course, the journey is littered with all kinds of nightmarish beasts and pitfalls (including an epic water park battle and slime-dripping baby monster), but the kids persist, armed with their endless gadgets and quick thinking. As the group races toward Thrull, the action culminates with an achingly tantalizing cliffhanger; expect audible groans and vociferous demands for the next installment. Fans of this series will revel in this fast-paced escapade with its recognizable black-and-white illustrations and trademark humor. Readers new to the series or those who are only familiar with the animated show may be a bit put off by this later volume that relies heavily on its own language of monsters and weapons. Jack, June, and Dirk are light-skinned; Quint is dark-skinned.

Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger. (Graphic fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984835-34-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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