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

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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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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