Read solely as fiction, this is an auspiciously clever and engaging series opener.

LUCY & ANDY NEANDERTHAL

Two Neanderthal preteens weave a tale of everyday life to which even modern kids can relate.

Over 40,000 years ago, tucked into a cozy cave, siblings Lucy and Andy live with their light-skinned and hirsute tribe, made up of their family (mother Luba, father Charles, and baby brother Danny) and another (Daryl and his children, Margaret and Phil, both older than Lucy and Andy). As related in a series of interrelated (and often wittily titled vignettes), the tribe spends its days in quotidian Neanderthal occupations: hunting mammoths, cooking, caring for one another, and making clothes and tools. Brown ambitiously weaves fact into his fiction and ends each short episode with interesting commentary about Stone Age life from two anthropologist characters, a white woman and a black man. At times these facts seem at odds with the story; despite a page devoted to speculation about Neanderthal gender equity, for instance, Luba seems entirely focused on child care. Although Brown makes reference to reading "almost a hundred!” books as research, he offers his readers neither bibliography nor resources to follow up on ignited interest (other than an impressive list of museums to visit). Despite this quibble, Brown’s vivacious plotlines are laugh-out-loud funny, and in spite of the prehistoric setting, this comic charmer should readily appeal to young readers.

Read solely as fiction, this is an auspiciously clever and engaging series opener. (Graphic historical fiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-38835-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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