A quirky romp but also a niche one.

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THE RUNAWAY PRINCESS

Princess Robin isn’t supposed to have adventures, but that doesn’t stop her in this French import.

Excited for the Aquatic Carnival, happy-go-lucky Princess Robin slips out of the castle without any adults catching her. Taking a shortcut through the woods, she comes across four brothers who, à la “Hansel and Gretel,” are terrified after having been dropped off in the woods by their father. Robin is determined to help them, and as adventures featuring a mermaid, pirates, kidnapping, and a candy house ensue, the quintet becomes fast friends. Adventures are broken down into three chapters (the book was originally published in three separate volumes), and each one includes a map and at least one interactive activity. “Dear reader,” prompts one, “please help our friends make the right choice! Which vine reaches all the way to the ground?” At least one, a connect-the-dots drawing, actively encourages children to put writing implement to book. The style and substance are less like Jeremy Whitley’s comic-book series Princeless or Ursula Vernon’s Hamster Princess and more as though Yellow Submarine and Luke Pearson’s Hilda had an extremely European baby. The scribbly crayon-and-ink illustrations have a bright, bold color palette and often take advantage of the diminutive size of Robin and her friends (all white-presenting) in their use of scale. Robin is one of only a few girl characters.

A quirky romp but also a niche one. (Graphic fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12416-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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What a wag.

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DOG MAN

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 1

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment.

CAT DAD, KING OF THE GOBLINS

A pair of sisters and a froggy sidekick go up against a horde of fungal jungle dwellers in this frantically paced Canadian import.

When Mom transforms Dad into a cat, 10-year-old Luey, her leggy green friend, Phil, and little sister Miri chase him through a closet door and down a jungle path into a maze of tunnels. They manage to rescue their errant parent from the maroon-colored, cat-worshiping goblins that had overrun the garden. (They are not the “mythological” sort, explains Wilson, but sentient mushrooms dressed in towels.) The three put most of their pursuers to flight by rubbing Dad’s fur the wrong way to turn him into a raving, furry maniac (the rest flee at the closet door, screaming “IT’S THE MOM CREATURE! RETREAT!!”). Captured in multiple, sometimes overly small panels of garishly colored cartoon art, the action—not to mention the internal logic—is sometimes hard to follow. Still, dragging along their timorous but canny buddy, the dark-skinned, big-haired sisters dash into danger with commendable vim, and readers will cheer when they come out triumphant on the other side.

This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment. (afterword) (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-927668-11-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Koyama Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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