A magnificently magical must-read for all fairy-tale fans

READ REVIEW

BABA YAGA'S ASSISTANT

After her long-distant father remarries, a young woman leaves home to be the assistant to the famous witch Baba Yaga in this clever reinvention.

After her mother’s death, Masha resides with her father, who keeps his distance from her both physically and emotionally. She is raised by her loving grandmother, who tells her all about her experiences with the cunning old crone Baba Yaga and the schemes she used to trick the aged witch. In a swift turn of events, her grandmother dies, and Masha's father remarries. Her new stepmother is aloof and has her own young daughter, Dani, a horrid, hand-biting brat. In a moment of desperation, Masha decides to follow in her grandmother's footsteps and answers an advertisement to be Baba Yaga's assistant. Once installed in the chicken-legged hut, she learns of the three purposefully tricky tests she must complete. McCoola's offering is a well-nuanced delight, satisfyingly blending fairy tale, legend, and thrills. As a perfect complement, Carroll's evocative art enthralls, capturing both the emotion and the magic of McCoola's yarn and breathing new life into an old folk tale. Though structured like a fairy tale, this clever and well-appointed graphic novel is refreshingly modern and obviously enjoys playing with conventions.

A magnificently magical must-read for all fairy-tale fans . (Graphic fantasy. 9-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6961-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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