Rote of plot and themes but with a (human) cast that does address a definite lack in the largely lily-white throngs of...

Four African-American fourth-graders have to lay aside their quarrels to save the Earth from an invasion of icy zombies.

Storywise, Bass doesn’t try for anything complicated or, for that matter, particularly logical. Having dropped a very important ring in the halls of Thurgood Cleavon Wilson Elementary, giant ice king Zenon threatens nerdy narrator Bakari Katari Johnson with a planetary invasion to get it back. Bakari is mystified until he spots the ring on the finger of classmate Keisha, mouthy mouthpiece for smug all-star athlete/teachers’ pet Tariq. It all sets off a round of squabbles and hall and lunchroom fracases with shambling zombie minions, a visit to Zenon’s icy dimension, and finally a bit of magic using the ring and a special marble that Bakari just happens to have from his granddad to close the gates to the Zombie Zone forever. Along with Bakari’s chubby best friend, Wardell, the young folk go from enemies to allies by the end. Craft tucks in lots of fluidly drawn scenes featuring purse-lipped students with oversize heads, jagged-edged attackers and the aforementioned ring in action.

Rote of plot and themes but with a (human) cast that does address a definite lack in the largely lily-white throngs of middle-grade fantasies. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-13210-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014


A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme.

An age-old rivalry is reluctantly put aside when two young vacationers are lost in the wilderness.

Anthropomorphic—in body if definitely not behavior—Dogg Scout Oscar and pampered Molly Hissleton stray from their separate camps, meet by chance in a trackless magic forest, and almost immediately recognize that their only chance of survival, distasteful as the notion may be, lies in calling a truce. Patterson and Grabenstein really work the notion here that cooperation is better than prejudice founded on ignorance and habit, interspersing explicit exchanges on the topic while casting the squabbling pair with complementary abilities that come out as they face challenges ranging from finding food to escaping such predators as a mountain lion and a pack of vicious “weaselboars.” By the time they cross a wide river (on a raft steered by “Old Jim,” an otter whose homespun utterances are generally cribbed from Mark Twain—an uneasy reference) back to civilization, the two are BFFs. But can that friendship survive the return, with all the social and familial pressures to resume the old enmity? A climactic cage-match–style confrontation before a worked-up multispecies audience provides the answer. In the illustrations (not seen in finished form) López plops wide-eyed animal heads atop clothed, more or less human forms and adds dialogue balloons for punchlines.

A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-41156-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019


Epic—in plot, not length—and as wise and wonderful as Gerald Morris’ Arthurian exploits.

Who needs dragons when there are Terrible Lizards to be fought?

Having recklessly boasted to King Arthur and the court that he’d slain 40 dragons, Sir Erec can hardly refuse when Merlin offers him more challenging foes…and so it is that in no time (so to speak), Erec, with bookish Sir Hector, the silent and enigmatic Black Knight, and blustering Sir Bors with his thin but doughty squire, Mel, in tow, are hewing away at fearsome creatures sporting natural armor and weapons every bit as effective as knightly ones. Happily, while all the glorious mashing and bashing leads to awesome feats aplenty—who would suspect that a ravening T. Rex could be decked by a well-placed punch to the jaw?—when the dust settles neither bloodshed nor permanent injury has been dealt to either side. Better yet, not even the stunning revelation that two of the Three Stooges–style bumblers aren’t what they seem (“Anyone else here a girl?”) keeps the questers from developing into a well-knit team capable of repeatedly saving one another’s bacon. Phelan endows the all-white human cast with finely drawn, eloquently expressive faces but otherwise works in a loose, movement-filled style, pitting his clanking crew against an almost nonstop onslaught of toothy monsters in a monochrome mix of single scenes and occasional wordless sequential panels.

Epic—in plot, not length—and as wise and wonderful as Gerald Morris’ Arthurian exploits. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-268623-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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