Nourishing fare for readers with a burning need to know.

CAN YOU HEAR A PENGUIN FART ON MARS?

AND OTHER EXCELLENT QUESTIONS

From the Jop and Blip Wanna Know series , Vol. 1

Two robots discuss some of life’s big questions.

There’s as much going on between the lines here as in them. Big Jop’s response to little Blip’s titular penguin query—“I’ve never heard a better question about one”—demonstrates the respect that any and every query from a child merits, and the two go on to consider logically what it would take to get a penguin (for instance) to Mars. Following this, the two chew over a range of topics, including the origin of sandwiches, why we have two nostrils, the epistemological implications of a belief in dragons, and the story of the blind men and the elephant. (Jop: “You can be kind of right about something…and kind of wrong about something at the same time.”) It all serves to underscore the notion that even—or perhaps especially—silly questions are always worth asking. Benton presents this profound exchange in plain language and panels of deceptively simple cartoon depictions of, say, guts (funny as well as relevant!) and comically overdone reaction shots. Jop and Blip vaguely resemble popeyed versions of C-3PO and R2-D2, and if the three blind, white-bearded men are identical except for having pink, brown, and yellow skin, the other human figures throughout generally vary in features as well as skin tone. An activity page closes each chapter (one is a maze that challenges readers to trace a hot dog through the digestive tract of a penguin).

Nourishing fare for readers with a burning need to know. (Graphic nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297292-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A bubble-gum crowd pleaser with wide audience appeal.

OLGA AND THE SMELLY THING FROM NOWHERE

From the Olga series , Vol. 1

A young girl who prefers science to people discovers an adorable and smelly little creature.

With an inquisitive mind and a dark teardrop-shaped swoop of hair, Olga may not have many friends, but she loves animals and thinks even their "farts are cute." She studies them and carefully transcribes her observations; she hopes someday to hang out with Jane Goodall. When she hears a scary rumble in her trash can, Olga discovers Meh, a pudgy, smelly creature that she describes as a "cross between an inflated hamster and a potato drawn by a three-year-old." Like any good scientist-in-training, she observes Meh, trying to discern his habits and his diet. When Meh goes missing, Olga must recruit actual people to help her find him—including two pop-star–obsessed girls she calls "The Lalas," a friendly boy with a tall scribble of hair and an incontinent dog, a punk-rock librarian, and a goofy but helpful shopkeeper. Gravel's tale is a visually interesting mix of illustration and story, punctuated by numerous lists, comic panels, and cartoon diagrams and led by a smart female protagonist. Covering everything from zoology to poop jokes, Gravel has painted her tale with a broad brush that should render this an easy sell to most young readers. The human characters all have paper-white skin, and there is no other cueing of racial difference.

A bubble-gum crowd pleaser with wide audience appeal. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-235126-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A sweetly encouraging look at the way friendship can mend heart and soul.

MONSTER FRIENDS

Reggie’s summer job as housesitter for a family away on travels turns out to be unexpectedly happy.

At a time that would normally be filled with exciting pursuits, Reggie is instead spending a quiet, solitary summer near the ocean. Reggie’s slightly unhappy and fearful vibe hints that all has not been going well in the monster’s life. There’s a pile of unanswered correspondence to deal with and an unsettling dream on the first night in the big house. Reggie is befriended by purple-spotted Emily, one of five sisters in a family of multihued, rabbitlike creatures. Emily is affable and talkative, ready to help Reggie overcome loneliness. Emily has her own misery at being dismissed by one sister who is scornful of her more whimsical sensibilities. Reggie and Emily find support in each other during a slightly scary adventure in a sea serpent’s lair. Reggie, who looks like an unprepossessing one-eyed, small blob with pointed ears, can, as demonstrated in the opening pages, stretch like rubber to reach a high shelf—and has other, even more impressive, abilities that make appearances later. Vandorn’s sunny, not-quite-pastel palette transforms the shadows that accompany Reggie’s arrival into a landscape of green fields, colorful gardens, and warm blue sea. Her rounded monster/animal characters are creatively varied and intriguing, and her storytelling simple but nuanced.

A sweetly encouraging look at the way friendship can mend heart and soul. (Graphic fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984896-82-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House Graphic

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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