THE STORM IN THE BARN

Eleven-year-old Jack Clark feels useless on his family’s Kansas farm. It’s 1937: The rain went away when he was seven, so he’s never been able to help out. His older sister Dorothy is sick with Dust Pneumonia, and little sister Mabel doesn’t provide much companionship. Jack is the favorite target of the town bullies, but general-store owner Ernie tries to cheer Jack with traditional “Jack tales.” Then the boy sees a mysterious flash in the Talbots’ abandoned barn. When he investigates, he discovers a frightening apparition. Talking about it starts rumors he is suffering from Dust Dementia. Just when his family has given up hope, Jack, inspired by Ernie’s stories, confronts the creature and fights a fantastic battle with miraculous results. Author/illustrator Phelan’s first graphic tale is part historical mystery, part fantasy thriller. The pencil-and-watercolor panels are cinematically framed and often wordless, advancing the plot and delineating character with careful strokes. The bleakness of the Dust Bowl comes through in both the landscape and the hopeless faces of his characters. This is not to be missed. (Graphic fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3618-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A well-Crafted, visually rich, truth-telling tale for our troubled times that affirms the eternal importance of friends.

CLASS ACT

Jordan Banks has returned to the elite Riverdale Academy Day School for eighth grade, and although he still doesn’t smell like an eighth grade boy—much to his dismay—his growth spurt comes in other forms.

Unlike New Kid (2019), this sequel offers the perspectives of not just Jordan, but also his best friend, Drew, and his wealthy White friend, Liam. As Jordan navigates what may be his last year at RAD before transferring to art school, he frequently compares his experiences with Drew’s: Both boys are Black, but Drew is taller, more athletic, and has darker skin. Drew also has a new flattop that attracts unwanted touching from non-Black kids. This story focuses on how differently RAD students and teachers treat light-skinned Jordan and dark-skinned Drew and also how middle-class Jordan, working-class Drew, and rich Liam negotiate a friendship of mutual respect and care. RAD administrators and teachers have also realized that they need to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, but their leadership choice for this initiative results in more microaggressions for the students of color. Jordan’s cartoon “intermissions,” black-and-white pencil sketches, capture his imaginative wit while conveying perceptive observations about race and class that ring true. Each chapter’s title page textually and illustratively echoes popular graphic works for young readers such as Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

A well-Crafted, visually rich, truth-telling tale for our troubled times that affirms the eternal importance of friends. (author's note) (Graphic fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288551-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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