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From the Last Comics on Earth series , Vol. 1

Creative, quip laden, and replete with manic mischief to lighten the message.

Four self-invented superheroes battle each other as well as two giant supervillains in this triple-threat outing.

In a comic-within-a-comic episode with plenty of Captain Underpants in its DNA (albeit more polish in the art) light-skinned Last Kids Jack and Dirk, along with brown-skinned buds June and Quint, are bummed to discover Z-Man, their favorite zombie superhero, left literally dangling off a cliff at the end of his comic’s last issue—and so they concoct secret identities of their own. In pages that switch from monochrome to full color, they dash off on separate rescue attempts with doggy sidekick Meepu tagging along. Unfortunately, the rivals not only fail, but get in one another’s way even while the burg of Apocalyptia is ravaged in turn by glutinous nihilist Muto the Unsympathetic and video gamer gone bonkers Final Boss Bob. Along with nifty costumes and distinctive powers (June, for instance, as Moonstar the Quasar Warrior, can shoot Starburst Snot Rockets), each hero comes with distinctive special gear, a full origin story, a secret hideout, and even a line of (fictive, at least so far) merch to peddle. And, after many a setback and snarky comment, the four do get their acts together in time to team up and save the town. They then return in triumph to their original limited-palette visuals and treetop clubhouse to plot out future episodes…cooperatively.

Creative, quip laden, and replete with manic mischief to lighten the message. (Graphic fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-52677-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2023

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From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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