If the story is disappointing, it’s only because the earlier books in the series set such a high standard: All of the jokes...

THE FLYING BEAVER BROTHERS AND THE HOT AIR BABOONS

From the Flying Beaver Brothers series , Vol. 5

The Flying Beaver Brothers comics are starting to resemble Mad Libs.

The plot summary for one of the Beaver Brothers books might look like this: Ace and Bub have to keep Beaver Island safe from a group of (plural name of an animal) with a giant (household appliance) that goes (sound effect). In this newest volume, for example, baboons are using an enormous hair dryer to melt all the snow on the island. They want to build a water park. The hair dryer goes “HAROO!” when it’s switched on. This book, like the previous four, is almost as funny as a great Mad Lib. But for returning readers, this may seem like a familiar, fill-in-the-blanks sort of plot. Maybe the next book will stray a bit from the animals-with-appliances formula. The artwork and sound effects are hilarious, as usual, but the simple line drawings don’t convey nuance very well, and the climactic action sequence is a little difficult to follow. It’s like a Michael Bay movie translated into emoji characters.

If the story is disappointing, it’s only because the earlier books in the series set such a high standard: All of the jokes work, but die-hard fans may feel a little exhausted, as though they’d just finished their 100th Mad Lib in a row. (Graphic novel. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-75466-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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What a wag.

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DOG MAN

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 1

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Elevates the graphic novel genre with its heartfelt focus on mental health and immigrant experiences.

LIVING WITH VIOLA

Do you have a voice in your head telling you to doubt your self-worth?

Enter Chinese Canadian Olivia Siu Leen Tong. She loves art, books, and making dumplings with her mom, but she struggles with being carefree and happy like her peers. Even harder, her parents enroll her in a new, better middle school, where she struggles to make friends. As immigrants from Hong Kong, her parents have sacrificed so much to give her opportunities, but with this come high expectations to be the perfect daughter. All the pressure causes her self-doubt to manifest as Viola, a shadowy version of herself. Viola spews insidious, undermining messages, causing Livy to fall into depression and have panic attacks. Although she finally makes some good friends and even starts enjoying school, Viola lurks in the back of Livy’s mind and sabotages her at every turn. As her life starts unraveling, she must decide whether to reveal her secrets and ask for help. In a debut inspired by her own life, Fung uses bold illustrations in warm shades of red and orange; whenever Viola appears, the palette darkens to purples and grays as swirling, negative thought bubbles overwhelm Livy like waves. Fung delicately balances the heavy subject matter of mental health issues, microaggressions, identity, cultural differences, and belonging with humor and heart.

Elevates the graphic novel genre with its heartfelt focus on mental health and immigrant experiences. (author’s note, Cantonese glossary, character sketches) (Graphic fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77321-548-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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