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STOWAWAY

From the Icarus Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A heartfelt adventure.

Space drama keeps finding 10-year-old Leo even though all he feels able to do is grieve.

At first, Leo was excited when aliens called Aykari landed on Earth in 2044. It was all fun and games and faster-than-light travel until more aliens, called the Djarik, attacked, killing Leo’s mother. The Aykari recruited his astrophysicist father to live on a research vessel with Leo and his older brother, Gareth. Well-paced flashbacks fill in these blanks of Leo’s past while, in the present, he and Gareth live through another Djarik assault. The lizardlike Djarik take Leo’s father prisoner and strip the ship, leaving it vulnerable to passing pirates. Pirates, though, have fuel and communications, so Gareth tricks Leo into stowing away alone with some who show up so that he can get help. Terrified, asthmatic Leo grabs for his inhaler, and before long he’s meeting new aliens, humans, and robots; getting shot at; and finding out that maybe his father didn’t know absolutely everything about the universe. Plentiful references to pop-culture touchstones like Ziggy Stardust and Pokémon give this space opera a lived-in feel. Leo’s narration aches with pathos but also provides moments of humor and finally ends on a cliffhanger. The alien main character simultaneously resembles humans and is radically nonhuman in ways that are emotionally satisfying. Most of the human cast defaults to White; two characters are coded Black and Japanese, respectively.

A heartfelt adventure. (Science fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-298594-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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WRECKING BALL

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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GHOSTS

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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