A particularly rough-hewn addition to the “magic school” shelf, with very little magic in sight.



From the Isle of Misfits series , Vol. 1

A gargoyle with a broken horn finds both work and a team at a secret school for mythological creatures.

Though properly taught to protect buildings and their residents (gargoyles’ function as rainspouts go unmentioned), Gibbon has been driven by boredom into dropping snowballs onto passers-by and like pranks. Suddenly, though, he’s whisked off to the Isle of Misfits, where the young and the restless are gathered to learn how to be better adjusted (“proper monsters”) and to appreciate the value of teamwork. It’s a whole new world for him, and he quickly bonds with four fellow students—a fairy with anger issues, a big and clumsy dragon, a yeti dude with a man bun, and a gentle griffin who can’t get the knack of flying. Initially, monkeylike Gibbon messes up an obstacle relay race by trying to take all the legs himself, but then at a later one he works with rather than against his friends to earn second place…or, as it turns out, first, because their malign, bullying competitors (“a green troll, a hairy gremlin, a slimy ghoul, and a baba yaga”) cheated. The prize is to skip class for a “mission” (see next episode). With rare exception, everyone in both the narrative and Hartas’ flurries of small sketched scenes seems to belong to a different species; fairy Fiona is depicted with brown skin. Despite their outward forms they’re all standard-issue kid types, if not stereotypes, and as unvarnished as the heavy-handed values education: “You need to learn how to work with your team, Gibbon. Your slacking off only makes it harder for the rest of us.”

A particularly rough-hewn addition to the “magic school” shelf, with very little magic in sight. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0822-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Little Bee

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Another epic outing in a graphic hybrid series that continues not just to push the envelope, but tear it to shreds.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 12

Pranksters George and Harold face the deadliest challenge of their checkered careers: a supersmart, superstrong gym teacher.

With the avowed aim of enticing an audience of “grouchy old people” to the Waistband Warrior’s latest exploit, Pilkey promises “references to health care, gardening, Bob Evans restaurants, hard candies, FOX News, and gentle-yet-effective laxatives.” He delivers, too. But lest fans of the Hanes-clad hero fret, he also stirs in plenty of fart jokes, brain-melting puns, and Flip-O-Rama throwdowns. After a meteorite transforms Mr. Meaner into a mad genius (evil, of course, because “as everyone knows, most gym teachers are inherently evil”) and he concocts a brown gas that turns children into blindly obedient homework machines, George and Harold travel into the future to enlist aid from their presumably immune adult selves. Temporarily leaving mates and children (of diverse sexes, both) behind, Old George and Old Harold come to the rescue. But Meaner has a robot suit (of course he has a robot suit), and he not only beats down the oldsters, but is only fazed for a moment when Capt. Underpants himself comes to deliver a kick to the crotch. Fortunately, gym teachers, “like toddlers,” will put anything in their mouths—so an ingestion of soda pop and Mentos at last spells doom, or more accurately: “CHeffGoal-D’BLOOOM!”

Another epic outing in a graphic hybrid series that continues not just to push the envelope, but tear it to shreds. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-50492-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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A decent start to a silly sci-fi series.


From the Alien Superstar series , Vol. 1

An extraterrestrial teen refugee becomes a Hollywood star.

Citizen Short Nose, a 13-year-old, blue-skinned, six-eyed, bipedal ET, has left his home world in an effort to escape the authoritarian forces that reign there. The teen runaway lands his spacecraft in the middle of Universal Studios and easily blends in among the tourists and actors in movie costumes. Citizen Short Nose quickly changes his name to Buddy C. Burger and befriends Luis Rivera, an 18-year-old Latinx actor who moonlights as Frankenstein on the Universal lot. Inspired to be an actor by his grandmother Wrinkle’s love of Earth culture, Buddy lands a gig on Oddball Academy, playing (of course) an alien from another world. On set, Buddy befriends Cassidy Cambridge, the brown-skinned teen star of the show. Buddy balances keeping his true identity secret (everyone just assumes he’s wearing an alien costume) with becoming an overnight sensation. The book is efficiently written, moving the story forward so quickly that readers won’t have time to think too hard about the bizarre circumstances necessary for the whole thing to work. This series opener’s big problem is the ending: The story just stops. Characters are established and plot mechanics are put together, but the book basically trusts readers to show up for the next installment. Those enamored with Hollywood gags and sci-fi plot boiling will probably be engaged enough to do so.

A decent start to a silly sci-fi series. (Science fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3369-7

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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