“That’s what I call a fun field trip!” exclaims Fizz in the final panel. Series fans will agree.

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THE CASE OF FIREBANE'S FOLLY

From the Tank & Fizz series , Vol. 4

In their latest exploit, the fourth-grade sleuths have a hot time countering the schemes of a clever dragon and saving their classmates from becoming spider snacks.

It’s a rollicking romp that’s not much for internal logic but provides opportunities aplenty for hair’s-breadth escapes plus encounters with creepy creatures such as giant spiders and lava sharks. When their school bus is hijacked, aptly named Tank, a troll with the soul of an engineer, and her goblin partner, narrator Fizz Marlow, find themselves in a race against time to recover a stolen crown before the outsized spider queen Azelia devours their captive class. Worse yet, the whole subterranean realm of Rockfall Mountain is in danger of being sucked into the hungry Abyss that lies below its lava lake. The crisis turns out to be the work of Firebane Drakeclaw, a shape-changing dragon whose tangled scheme (as he explains at length) involves creating an army of downtrodden swamp-dwellers in a bid for ultimate power. With help from allies both eight-legged and otherwise, the daring detectives derail his dastardly designs, reclaim the crown, and save their classmates (even kobold bully Rizzo Rawlins) from being slurped dry. Breaking frequently into single and sequential graphic panels done in an orange-and-gray color scheme, the caper features a cast that is devoid of humans but otherwise rich in diverse species and distinct characters.

“That’s what I call a fun field trip!” exclaims Fizz in the final panel. Series fans will agree. (Graphic mystery/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1261-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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High-energy high jinks in a multicultural, or at least multispecies, setting.

THE CASE OF THE BATTLING BOTS

From the Tank & Fizz series

Young sleuths stumble on a demonic conspiracy to blow the lid off Slick City’s new sports arena. Just for a start.

Goblin Fizz Marlow and troll gearhead Tank Wrenchlin are convinced that slimeball schoolmate Rizzo Rawlins’ supposedly homemade battle bot illegally incorporates professional-grade code and components. Their search for proof leads them and elven trainee wizard Aleetha to several puzzles. Who is the mysterious “Codex,” and why is he (or she) supplying Rizzo as well as hacking Slick City’s computer systems to threaten disaster if the just-finished Slurp Stadium is opened for the upcoming Battle Bot Cup? How did the stadium come to be built over a magic stone that could, as old maps hint, serve as a portal to demon worlds? What can a trio of fourth-graders do, opposed by corrupt officials, a bully with a pair of hulking hench-ogres, and a local business tycoon with—as it turns out—a high-tech hand-held demon controller? Well, plenty, though not without a few missteps, help from a surprising temporary ally, and lots of climactic bot-smashing. In a slick mix of narrative blocks and panels of nonscary monsters delivering punch lines in dialogue balloons, the exploit careens along to a triumphant close.

High-energy high jinks in a multicultural, or at least multispecies, setting. (Graphic/mystery/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0813-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Another radiant outing.

SWING IT, SUNNY

From the Sunny series , Vol. 2

A home-centered sequel to Sunny Side Up (2015), with incidents joyful and otherwise in a middle schooler’s life.

The tale is set in the 1976-77 school year and framed by references to TV shows of that era (both contemporaneous and reruns, including The Six Million Dollar Man, The Brady Bunch, and Gilligan’s Island, with amusingly pithy show notes for each). The story unfolds in successive episodes of Sunny’s self-conceived The Sunny Show that confront her with domestic challenges ranging from little brother Teddy’s filled diaper (“Something Smells”) to the stormy holiday visit by formerly loving but now angry, troubled big brother Dale, come home from a military-style boarding school (“Six Million Dollar Boy”). Despite such low notes, though, the general trend is upbeat—with Gramps coming up from Florida for a visit, a sisterly, Indian-American teen neighbor named Neela Singh moving in next door (adding some diversity to the otherwise all-white main cast), and a heartening if long-distance thank-you from Dale for the pet rock Sunny gives him at Christmas being particular highlights. Using a combination of short exchanges of dialogue and frequent wordless reaction shots, the Holms again leverage simply drawn scenes colored by Pien into a loosely autobiographical narrative that is poignant and hilarious in turn and emotionally rich throughout.

Another radiant outing. (Graphic historical fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-74170-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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