A uniquely effective story of crime-fighting kids.

READ REVIEW

COUSINS & ROBBERS

TALES OF BLACK JACK JETTY

Carestio’s children’s mystery/adventure successfully updates the classic kids-solving-mysteries genre.

A gentle bridge between children’s lit and adult crime fiction, Carestio’s (Black Jack Jetty, 2010) novel follows young cousins who set out to catch a gang of robbers who have been raiding houses in their seaside resort community of Black Jack Jetty. They embark on a fast-paced, enjoyably realistic adventure that promotes good values: self-sufficiency, speaking out against bigotry, etc. Main characters Jack and Riley are unique individuals, but young readers will still be able to identify with them and vicariously enjoy the saga. While Carestio may rely on the time-honored premise of adventurous kids running across a mystery and outwitting crooks to fight crime, he gives the mystery a 21st-century gleam. New technologies and modern attitudes burnish old-fashioned situations and settings, modernizing Carestio’s boy and girl detective characters. The criminals they hunt are clearly dangerous enough for the reader to take seriously, but parents needn’t worry about young ones reading a James Ellroy–like tale by mistake. An intelligent sea gull narrates the tale with wry, amusing asides to the reader that break the fourth wall and relieve dramatic tension. The contemporary narration also references Google Earth and the recent recession. Descriptions are chatty and entertaining, dotted with anecdotes and fun facts that pique real-world curiosity and enhance the picture of the little town, the heroes and the villains. The action is almost cinematic in its structure, with many staccato beats that evoke pictures and sounds with quick snippets of description and sudden bursts of onomatopoeia. The text suffers from an unfortunate number of typographical errors but is otherwise solidly professional in presentation.  Younger kids may be challenged by some of the more complex words and constructions in the text, but avid older readers could grow a bit with them.

A uniquely effective story of crime-fighting kids.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 46

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE SKELETON ROAD

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 6

The monster-fighting gang from Wakefield departs on a post-apocalyptic road trip.

In this sixth installment of the heavily illustrated, Netflix-adapted series, quirky Jack Sullivan and his friends June, Quint, and Dirk finally leave their creature-ridden town in search of the ultimate baddie, Thrull, who previously deceived them. The quartet takes their tricked-out ride (an armored RV named Bad Mama) onto the open road (with Jack’s Zombie Squad in tow) to find the Outpost, where they believe a certain monster will be able to give them the location of the evil Tower where they believe Thrull now resides. Of course, the journey is littered with all kinds of nightmarish beasts and pitfalls (including an epic water park battle and slime-dripping baby monster), but the kids persist, armed with their endless gadgets and quick thinking. As the group races toward Thrull, the action culminates with an achingly tantalizing cliffhanger; expect audible groans and vociferous demands for the next installment. Fans of this series will revel in this fast-paced escapade with its recognizable black-and-white illustrations and trademark humor. Readers new to the series or those who are only familiar with the animated show may be a bit put off by this later volume that relies heavily on its own language of monsters and weapons. Jack, June, and Dirk are light-skinned; Quint is dark-skinned.

Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger. (Graphic fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984835-34-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

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

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. 19, 2019

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