Thoughtful, fun, and educative.



From the Dark Agents series , Vol. 1

A young witch trains to become an agent of the Underworld Intelligence Agency.

Long ago, Greek gods divided the world into three realms, and Hades, after being assigned the Underworld, created an agency to unite immortals with mortals who possess special gifts to maintain order around the world. Violet is one of the agency’s new students, a Ukrainian witch whose parents were horrifically killed in front of her by a powerful necromancer when she was a young child. Now, as a 19-year-old Dark Agent–in-training, Violet and her fellow recruits learn how to use their powers, engage in the art of combat, and, most importantly, understand their emotions. Scarlet draws from her experience as a psychologist to offer this self-help graphic fantasy that blends Greek mythology and education with a strong focus on the principles of mindfulness. Violet’s PTSD and the other recruits’ mental health struggles are addressed head-on and compassionately explored as the most meaningful lessons in their training. Alvendia uses simple panel layouts with uncluttered backgrounds which allow the characters and their emotions to take center stage. His vividly drawn, cartoonlike style is heavy on blacks and grays with splashes of bright color. While the focus is on the psychological background of the characters, the worldbuilding is fun, fast-paced, and engaging. Violet is white, and there is diversity in the rest of the cast.

Thoughtful, fun, and educative. (Graphic fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68403-174-0

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Instant Help Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.


A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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There are some funny moments, particularly in the simple black-and-white cartoons of a girl and boy that accompany the text...



Jokes about cheese logs abound in this humorous but sometimes-belabored etiquette guide ostensibly aimed at teens.

Following an introduction that defines what makes a person seem like a dick, seven chapters address situations ranging from initiating romantic relationships to behaving responsibly at after-office get-togethers. An uneasy line is straddled in terms of its intended age range. Readers are dutifully exhorted to make sure they wear proper attire to school dances: “Most schools have dress codes for dances. Read them carefully!” Yet there’s also advice on how to politely use a coffee shop as your office if you’re working from home. Further, a section on safety and manners at parties seems at times to employ the euphemistic term “sugary beverages” for alcohol and suggests “If you are buzzing on sugar or if someone spiked the punch, DO NOT DRIVE.” This cagey approach to the topic of teen drinking is confusing at best and at worst, may strike readers as condescending.

There are some funny moments, particularly in the simple black-and-white cartoons of a girl and boy that accompany the text throughout. However, as etiquette goes, there’s not much that is new here and a real question of whom this is for. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-936976-02-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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