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A smoothly written family adventure that evokes both Willy Wonka and The Wonder Years.

The casket at a strangely festive funeral proves to contain not the deceased but a clue that leads the bereaved family on an epic scavenger hunt.

Rion Kwirk, 12, regards his grandfather with wary fascination. Papa Kwirk, a hard-living biker and Vietnam War vet, and Rion’s dad, a Ph.D. candy-factory chemist, were semi-estranged. Rion’s planetarium-director mom maintained peace on Papa Kwirk’s short, friction-filled visits. When news of Papa Kwirk’s death arrives via singing clown, the family drives to Greenburg, Illinois, where his sister, Gertie has organized a “funneral.” Rion’s older sister, Cass, 16, brings her pet python, Delilah (Papa Kwirk was a fan); his younger sister, Lyra, 10, brings a hefty vocabulary. Edgy with Gertie and uncomfortable in his hometown, which carries bad memories, Dad’s unsettled by the funneral. Still, curious about the crowd showing up to laud Papa Kwirk, Dad agrees to the hunt. Reflective Rion’s an outlier among the aptronymic Kwirks. A convincing preteen when interacting with his sisters and peers, he sounds decades older—wry and nostalgic by turns—when pondering life. There’s a time-warp feel to Rion’s insular, mostly white world (Tasha, Rion’s possible crush, is dark, race unspecified). Recurring jokes include other cultures’ burial practices and Rion’s fantasy of being orphaned and adopted. The Kwirks’ dead-of-night adventure digging up a stranger’s backyard prompts gun jokes but not fear.

A smoothly written family adventure that evokes both Willy Wonka and The Wonder Years. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-264389-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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