KRAKEN ME UP

From the I Like To Read Comics series

An unusual pet wins over a crowd.

There’s a contest at the fair, and different children are bringing their pets in hopes of winning. The bespectacled White judge is excited about the “pretty pig” and “fine hen”—and then comes across a brown-skinned child in a yellow slicker, cheerfully holding onto a large green tentacle. “It is a… / KRAKEN!” the judge shrieks in horror as the kraken, an adorable, massive-headed green sea monster, looks abashed, enormous, emotive eyes communicating volumes. All the other children are equally afraid, so the kraken slinks off to sulk in a tiny pond. This early-reader graphic novel is well paced, going a bit into the backstory of the kraken and the child with energetic, brightly colored panels, short sentences, and simple vocabulary. The ultimate triumph—involving the kraken playing around with his own ink and the sudden regurgitation of pirates—is funny and well earned, mixing both familiar children’s insecurities with off-the-wall humor and twists. The illustrations of the kraken pretending to be a spaceship or Groucho Marx are especially delightful, though the few jokes rhyming with “kraken” are a bit eye roll–y. The kraken is appealing and charming, the child is brazen and recognizable, and the overall goofiness mixed with sincerity will win over many a reluctant reader.

A kraken good time. (Graphic early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-5017-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Here’s hoping there will be a bunch of Baloney in the future.

BALONEY AND FRIENDS

From the Baloney & Friends series , Vol. 1

A new chapter-book series promises tons of fun for everyone.

Baloney the pig couldn’t be happier about starring in his very own book—until pals Peanut D. Horse, Bizz E. Bee, and Krabbit (a crabby rabbit) crash the introduction, leaving him frustrated. Baloney perseveres and goes on to star in several, short comic book–style stories that often break the fourth wall and that always rely on the very different personalities of the characters to deliver humor. Peanut is a Pollyanna and just a bit daffy. Bizz is a sensible, thoughtful bee-ing. Krabbit is so crabby he’d give Oscar the Grouch a run for his money. Baloney? Well, Baloney is a sensitive sort who, in two longer episodes, wants to entertain his friends with a magic show and join in their fun at swimming. Shorter “mini-comics” between these sections provide good breaks for new readers who are, perhaps, just starting to make their ways through a longer text like this. Pizolli saves the strongest story for last, delivering a sweet and satisfying portrait of Peanut’s kindness to her friend Baloney when he feels blue. And readers needn’t feel blue themselves that the story is over since they can follow handy backmatter instructions to draw their own versions of the simple, line-drawn characters.

Here’s hoping there will be a bunch of Baloney in the future. (Graphic fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-05454-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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