A shiveringly good tale for ghost-story enthusiasts who like happy endings.

SQUASHED

A GRAPHIC NOVEL

Two siblings experience spooky consequences after taking a strange pumpkin home from the woods in this text-light, Halloween-themed graphic novel for middle-grade readers.

A young girl is playing Poohsticks on a bridge when her older sibling and their friend steal her teddy bear out of her backpack. She chases the pair into the nearby woods, where they encounter an odd trio of scarecrows. The sibling then discovers a pumpkin that shakes, is covered in goo, and is warm to the touch. The friend leaves, deciding that the situation’s too weird, but the siblings decide to take the pumpkin home. Teddy bear forgotten, the two siblings lug the pumpkin back to their house and find a warm spot for it atop the clothes dryer. Halloween is the next day, and at midnight, something magical happens in the woods; one of the scarecrows comes alive, realizes that the pumpkin is missing, sees the teddy bear, and tracks the children to their home. Illustrator Meaghan Tosi amps up the scares in this section; although the scarecrow won’t be too creepy for middle graders, the images of its angry eyes and clenched fists ratchet up the tension as its inevitable meeting with the children approaches. The result, however, is unexpected, with a sweet plot twist that’s reminiscent of other monster-subverting tales, such as Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado’s Giants Beware (2012). The illustrator uses a subdued color palette to effectively communicate the different seasons (and, later, the spooky Halloween night). The story was originally the basis of a film written by author Thomas Tosi, and it translates beautifully to paneled storytelling; the illustrations capture the pacing perfectly, creating consistent suspense. The limited text requires readers to follow the art to understand the story, but Meaghan's clear, straightforward panel work flows cleanly across the pages. The simple vocabulary and brief dialogue exchanges make it accessible in a way that denser comics aren’t, making it a good selection for reluctant readers who like eerie adventures.

A shiveringly good tale for ghost-story enthusiasts who like happy endings.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 78

Publisher: Dooney Press

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE ZOMBIE PARADE

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 2

Thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan and his crew of monster-fighting besties are fresh off their victorious battle against the evil Blarg, but there’s no rest for the weary in the middle of a Monster Apocalypse.

First, Joe’s Pizza has become the local monster hangout. And second, the zombies seem to be disappearing. Thankfully, the white boy, his not-so-secret Latina love, June Del Toro, his African-American, science-nerd best friend, Quint, and pre-apocalypse bully–turned-ally Dirk, a large white boy who loves to garden, befriend a man-monster who might have the answers to everything. Equal parts humor, adventure, and warmth, the book offers fans of the series and new readers alike an entirely agreeable outing. Jack’s witty narration and Holgate’s pitch-perfect illustrations make for a terrific read that’s particularly well suited for middle-grade boys who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. There are plenty of foul-smelling, brain-sucking monsters and gizmos and gadgets to delight, but at its core, this is a story about friendship. Orphaned at birth and raised by a foster family he describes as jerks, Jack has always longed for a family of his own. Now that he has one, the only thing scarier than the monsters is the thought of losing them.

An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart. (Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-01662-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Imaginative, feel-good fun.

ASTER AND THE MIXED-UP MAGIC

From the Aster series , Vol. 2

More magical al fresco adventures abound!

In this full-color follow-up to Aster and the Accidental Magic (2020), Aster and her talking dog, Buzz, return in two new tales. In the first, “Why So Much Wool?” strange accidents repeatedly occur around Aster’s village, and upon investigation, she and Buzz discover a rogue band of muttonheaded sheep (known as the BAAAAAH-ligerent Army) led by a talking ram named Keras, who has proclaimed himself the Great Leader of the Sheep Revolution. Lucky for Aster, the dimwitted sheep are easily outsmarted, but not Keras, whom she must stop before he destroys her home. The second tale, “The End of Everything (and What Was Left),” focuses more on the natural magic from the previous volume. Each season has a royal who helps preserve the balance, passing along a crown to mark the transitions between their reigns. When the crown disappears, Aster ventures to the Labyrinth of Chimeras in an attempt to reforge it and restore the balance before the trickster Rapscallion can escape. This second outing pulls readers into a delightfully wrought world with a strong emphasis on nature and the outdoors and the real and imaginary magic contained therein. Joyous, effervescent illustrations mark this French import. For Aster aficionados, further journeys are hinted at in a subsequent volume in which Aster and her family travel to Japan. Aster and most human characters read as White.

Imaginative, feel-good fun. (Graphic fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12534-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House Graphic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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