Could pack more of a punch, but Natalie’s straightforward, heartfelt story will still resonate.


Cartoonist Scrivan’s debut graphic novel explores friendship breakups and coming in to one’s own.

Bespectacled Natalie and her best friend, Lily, used to be “two peas in a pod.” But after Lily moves, even though they both start at the same middle school, nothing is the same. Mean and dismissive, Lily has clearly dropped Natalie for their middle school’s cool girl, but Natalie is desperate to win her back no matter what. Convinced she’s “not enough” as she is, she tries everything from a new hat to suppressing her creativity. While she faces mild bullying from Lily and another classmate, a few newfound friends work unwaveringly to support Natalie in her journey to rebuild her self-esteem: “I’ve spent so much time thinking about what I’m not good at…that I never think about what I am good at.” Both the illustration style and slice-of-life pacing have an early-2000s feel—think Amelia’s Notebook rather than Raina Telgemeier. Natalie’s first-person narration is so self-focused that secondary characters are exclusively there to contribute to her character development. Readers learn next to nothing about the internal lives of Natalie’s kind new friend Zoe or her crush, Derek, both kids of color. (Both Natalie and Lily are white.) While this isn’t unfitting—the premise is that this is Natalie’s sketchbook—it makes for underwhelming representation.

Could pack more of a punch, but Natalie’s straightforward, heartfelt story will still resonate. (Graphic fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-53821-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.


Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...


A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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