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 little ruff around the edges.

HEART OF GOLD

From the Cutiecorns series , Vol. 1

A new series features puppies with magical unicorn horns.

The Cutiecorns are thrilled when they learn that they’re about to have their Enchanted Jubilee, which means they’re ready to start learning how to use their magic. Golden retriever puppy Sparkle gets an extra surprise—her parents celebrate her Jubilee by gifting her a locket that’s a precious family heirloom. As with any book for this age group, as soon as an important item is introduced it’s guaranteed to be promptly lost; poor Sparkle is robbed of it by a mysterious stranger. While investigating, the Cutiecorns overhear a scary story about a bad cat wizard, Claw—and the description fits that of Sparkle’s assailant. They venture off into the Furbidden Forest to find the cat and retrieve the locket. The narration is filled with entertaining wordplay for young pun lovers (“pawsome”; “furever”), and the concept of magical puppies is an appealingly childcentric one. The art is a mixed bag—enormous-eyed puppies with shapes that highlight the various breeds (even Claw, despite pointy claws and teeth, is adorable in a chubby way), but the vaunted horns distractingly look an awful lot like party hats. The story really goes to the dogs and falls apart in a confusing climax that relies on deus ex machina magic and an on-the-spot plan that’s perfectly coordinated without any communication among the Cutiecorns. Book 2, Purrfect Pranksters, publishes simultaneously.

A little ruff around the edges. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-54036-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A gently whimsical rumination about compromise and friendship.

KONDO & KEZUMI REACH BELL BOTTOM

From the Kondo & Kezumi series , Vol. 2

Stormy waters await two friends on the high seas.

In this follow-up to Kondo & Kezumi Visit Giant Island (2020), best pals Kondo and Kezumi are back in their tiny boat, sailing toward new adventures. Kondo wants to stick with their plans to visit Spaghetti Island, but Kezumi is easily distracted by nearby wonders. Her curiosity piqued, she longs to follow schools of carrot-colored, long-eared sea jumpers bounding out of the water and to explore a mysterious rusty ship. Kondo, however, is frustrated by Kezumi’s constant diversions, wishing to stay on course. When the duo shipwrecks on a strange new island, their tensions come to a head, and each stomps off angrily in opposite directions. Kezumi finds an immense broken warning bell and wants to fix it but cannot move it without Kondo’s help; will they be able to reconcile and work together? Adhering to stereotypes, Kondo, the yellow male character, is markedly larger and stockier than female Kezumi, who is orange, frilled, and slight. This quibble aside, Goodner and Tsurumi’s tale offers many alluringly adorable two-page illustrated spreads, with text divided into readably short chapters. The pacing pulls readers along like a swift current, and worldbuilding is playful and unexpected, dialing up the imagination and creating a new dimension for this tried-and-true friendship tale.

A gently whimsical rumination about compromise and friendship. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5473-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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