ROLL CALL

From the Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Club series , Vol. 1

Scoring high on charisma, this tale of personal growth is bound to win many a curious young fan over to D&D’s allure.

Role-playing and real life are inextricably intertwined in this Dungeons & Dragons–themed story of middle-grade woes.

Up-and-coming eighth graders Jess, who has light brown skin, and Olivia, who presents as Black and Latine, have been inseparable since third grade. Though Jess may not be socially adept (“I’m not good at friends, but I’m good at stories”), she has a firm friend in Olivia, and the two bond over role-playing games, Olivia acting as Dungeon Master while Jess engages in quests as the hero Sir Corius. Then Olivia suggests starting a Dungeons & Dragons club at school, an idea that change-averse Jess becomes determined to thwart. The duo becomes a trio when another member joins the club, and Jess, feeling frustrated and vulnerable as things change even more, ends up hurting Olivia. Now Jess will have to dig deep to become a hero in real life. The back and forth between reality and the game’s quest is interspliced expertly, never confusing readers with the switches. Ostertag deftly shows how elements of the game bleed into Jess’ real life, like seeing core stats for kids at school floating about their heads. As the real and the fantastical blend into one another, readers will root for Jess even as her poor choices are hard to disregard. Bouma’s engaging art will surely lure in fans of realistic comics.

Scoring high on charisma, this tale of personal growth is bound to win many a curious young fan over to D&D’s allure. (Graphic novel. 9-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-303924-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

STEALING HOME

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

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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