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An engaging tale that offers fantastical storytelling and hair-raising adventure.

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In Lengyel’s graphic novel for children, a precocious young girl discovers a hidden world of magical spirits—and accidentally brings one back with her into her own world.

Eight-year-old Kali Teal has felt ill for as long as she can remember. Doctors have never been able to figure out what’s wrong, and no medicine seems to help. One stormy night, while driving to the hospital with her mom, a feverish Kali finds herself whisked away to the land of the Mannamong—nature spirits she knows from her mother’s bedtime stories. In this new place, she meets Gisenes, the daughter of Mother Nature, who reveals that a Mannamong named Tontorus has been hiding inside her and is responsible for her illness. Gisenes and the other Mannamong manage to imprison Tontorus, and Kali returns to the real world completely healed. Just as her life is beginning to return to normal, however, she learns that Tontorus somehow returned with her, and his curse threatens to transform her into a pointy-eared, fox-tailed creature, much like Tontorus himself. Soon, she’s on a quest with a Mannamong named Blitzstreak to find a mysterious pearl in a race against time to separate Kali’s soul from Tontorus forever. Lengyel delivers a delightful adventure that’s full of whimsy, with just a touch of scariness to keep young readers on the edge of their seats. Kali is a courageous hero whose hot temper gets her into trouble from time to time, but her bravery and resourcefulness make her easy to root for. The plot moves at a brisk pace, but the detailed worldbuilding and well-developed characters keep the story from losing focus. The rich Mannamong mythology matches perfectly with Lengyel’s vibrant, full-color cartoon illustrations. The author deftly mixes a bit of manga style with influences drawn from Mesoamerican art, arriving at an offbeat aesthetic that’s full of passion and playfulness. This first volume in a series ends on a cliffhanger, but the author offers tantalizing clues to what may be in store for Kali down the road.

An engaging tale that offers fantastical storytelling and hair-raising adventure.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2024

ISBN: 9781732563230

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2024

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An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A thoughtful, humorous, community-centered exploration of identity and Buddhism.

Stories of Buddha’s past lives help a young boy “find [himself] in the moment.”

Binh and his siblings, who are of Vietnamese descent, can’t believe they’re spending the weekend at a silent meditation retreat. Binh would rather play his Game Boy so he doesn’t have to meditate and inevitably think about the bullies at school. It is only when Sister Peace tells stories about the Buddha and his past life that Binh is able to imagine himself entering a video game–inspired world and thus process his feelings of shame, isolation, and anger. With each Jataka tale, Binh’s awareness expands, and so, too, does his ability to be present for and helpful to those around him. A welcome addition to the handful of middle-grade stories featuring Buddhist protagonists, this exploration of identity and Buddhist principles will find an audience with young readers who love Raina Telgemeier but aren’t quite ready to level up to the complexity and nuance of Gene Luen Yang’s epic American Born Chinese (2006). The video game elements are compelling, although they understandably diminish as the story progresses and the protagonist’s inner life grows. Warm fall colors and luscious black lines anchor the story as it transitions among flashbacks, stories, and the present day. Filled with talking animals, the parables can be a little heavy-handed, but the witty banter between Binh and the narrator during fantasy sequences provides levity. (This review was updated for accuracy.)

A thoughtful, humorous, community-centered exploration of identity and Buddhism. (bibliography) (Graphic fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9780759555488

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Little, Brown Ink

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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