A refreshingly disability-positive superhero origin story.

THE ORACLE CODE

Nijkamp (contributor: His Hideous Heart, 2019, etc.) reimagines the backstory of Oracle, computer genius and ally to Batman.

When skilled hacker Barbara “Babs” Gordon and her best friend, Benjamin, attempt to intervene in a robbery, Babs is shot. Six weeks later, the newly paralyzed Babs reluctantly rolls into the Arkham Center for Independence, where teens with disabilities undergo physical and emotional rehabilitation. Despite her father’s well-meaning advice, Babs resents being there. Even the mysterious cries within the mansion’s walls can’t lift the teen’s despondence—until Jena, a burn survivor full of haunting tales, disappears. Aided by supportive patients Yeong and Issy, whom she gradually befriends, Babs must accept her new reality in order to find Jena and escape a sinister plot. The author sensitively portrays Babs’ frustration and trauma and realistically addresses her challenges, such as mastering wheelchair ramps and negotiating stairs. Babs’ increasing self-confidence is heartening, and the message that people with disabilities don’t need to be “fixed” in order to thrive is empowering (albeit slightly heavy-handed). Balancing bright and dark colors, Preitano’s (contributor: Puerto Rico Strong, 2018, etc.) illustrations vividly convey Babs’ anger and determination, and a jigsaw-puzzle motif reflects Babs’ quest to piece together her new identity as well as the institution’s secret. Most characters present white. Yeong, who walks with forearm crutches, is cued through her name as Korean; Issy, who uses a wheelchair, presents black.

A refreshingly disability-positive superhero origin story. (Graphic fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4012-9066-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery.

DISPLACEMENT

Time travel brings a girl closer to someone she’s never known.

Sixteen-year-old Kiku, who is Japanese and white, only knows bits and pieces of her family history. While on a trip with her mother to San Francisco from their Seattle home, they search for her grandmother’s childhood home. While waiting for her mother, who goes inside to explore the mall now standing there, a mysterious fog envelops Kiku and displaces her to a theater in the past where a girl is playing the violin. The gifted musician is Ernestina Teranishi, who Kiku later confirms is her late grandmother. To Kiku’s dismay, the fog continues to transport her, eventually dropping her down next door to Ernestina’s family in a World War II Japanese American internment camp. The clean illustrations in soothing browns and blues convey the characters’ intense emotions. Hughes takes inspiration from her own family’s story, deftly balancing complicated national history with explorations of cultural dislocation and biracial identity. As Kiku processes her experiences, Hughes draws parallels to President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and the incarceration of migrant children. The emotional connection between Kiku and her grandmother is underdeveloped; despite their being neighbors, Ernestina appears briefly and feels elusive to both Kiku and readers up to the very end. Despite some loose ends, readers will gain insights to the Japanese American incarceration and feel called to activism.

A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery. (photographs, author’s note, glossary, further reading) (Graphic historical fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-19353-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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BEOWULF

Pairing art from an earlier, self-published edition to a newly adapted text, Hinds retells the old tale as a series of dark, bloody, chaotic clashes. Here Grendel is a glaring, black monster with huge teeth, corded muscles and a tendency to smash or bite off adversaries’ heads; the dragon is all sinuous viciousness; and Beowulf, mighty of thew, towers over his fellow Geats. The narrative, boxed off from the illustrations rather than incorporated into them, runs to lines like, “Bid my brave warriors O Wiglaf, to build a lofty cairn for me upon the sea-cliffs . . . ” and tends to disappear when the fighting starts. Because the panels are jumbled together on the page, the action is sometimes hard to follow, but this makes a strongly atmospheric alternative to the semi-abstract Beowulf, the Legend, by Stephen L. Antczak and James C. Bassett, illus by Andy Lee (2006), or the more conventionally formatted version of Michael Morpurgo, with pictures by Michael Foreman (2006). (Graphic fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3022-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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