A rousing kickoff for the Captain Underpants crowd.

MISCHIEF AND MAYHEM

BORN TO BE BAD

From the Mischief and Mayhem series , Vol. 1

First exploits of a would-be superhero and her doughty side-cat.

Missy Go’s mother works outside the home and supports the family financially while her father runs the household. Rafi, her little brother who is adopted, is a straight-A student, unlike Missy. Afflicted with a mischievous streak but yearning to be a superhero, young gadgeteer Missy and her orange tabby cat Gizmo hie off to superhero boot camp—where, alas, she falls in with fellow camper Melvira, who uses her superpowers (or does she?) to make Missy think she’s a good friend, gets them both kicked out, and persuades her that it’s more fun to be a villain. The two have very different ideas about what constitutes villainy, though, and when pranks like stealing all the toilet paper in town don’t float her boat, Melvira trots out both a giant robot and a weapon that sucks the powers out of superheroes. At this, Missy, suited up as “Mischief,” with costumed kitty “Mayhem” attending, reluctantly switches sides. Framed mostly as a flashback, the action hurtles along through irregular panels of hyperkinetic cartoon action and snarky banter to a climactic face-off featuring epic robot battles, lots of slime and toilet paper, and, at the end, drawing lessons and space to create your own characters. Missy and her parents appear Asian; Rafi reads as Black, and the supporting cast is broadly diverse.

A rousing kickoff for the Captain Underpants crowd. (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297075-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

A WHALE OF THE WILD

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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