A coming-of-age tale that is both comforting and wonderfully peculiar.

SÉANCE TEA PARTY

As a girl struggles to navigate adolescence, she finds support from an unlikely source.

In this graphic novel, 12-year-old Lora Xi finds herself increasingly isolated. While her best friend and her classmates seem obsessed with parties, boys, and texting, her interests have remained fixed on witches, ghosts, and nostalgic activities of childhood. While throwing herself a séance tea party in the attic, she discovers a ghost, a girl about her age, named Alexa. The two become fast friends, with Alexa gently prodding Lora to reach out to peers and slowly engage in more social events. The energetic, flowing graphics embellished with colorful details reveal complex narratives for both characters. With the help of some old friends, Alexa eventually discovers more about her long-forgotten past, having lived in the same town 50 years prior. Lora finds the courage to participate in more social events while staying authentic. But the two friends gradually find their goals diverging, which leads to an emotional climax. While this is Yee’s middle-grade debut, she is a veteran of comic books, and it shows. She artfully balances complex character arcs and suspense while bringing a touch of fantasy and wonder without overcrowding the plot. Lora is of Chinese descent, and Alexa is White; Lora’s middle-class North American community is vibrantly diverse.

A coming-of-age tale that is both comforting and wonderfully peculiar. (author's note) (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12532-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Funny, scary in the right moments, and offering plenty of historical facts.

HOUDINI AND ME

Catfished…by a ghost!

Harry Mancini, an 11-year-old White boy, was born and lives in Harry Houdini’s house in New York City. It’s no surprise, then, that he’s obsessed with Houdini and his escapology. Harry and his best friend, Zeke, are goofing around in some particularly stupid ways (“Because we’re idiots,” Zeke explains later) when Harry hits his head. In the aftermath of a weeklong coma, Harry finds a mysterious gift: an ancient flip phone that has no normal phone service but receives all-caps text messages from someone who identifies himself as “HOUDINI.” Harry is wary of this unseen stranger, like any intelligently skeptical 21st-century kid, but he’s eventually convinced: His phone friend is the real deal. So when Houdini asks Harry to try one of his greatest tricks, Harry agrees. Harry—so full of facts about Houdini that he litters his storytelling with infodumps, making him an enthusiastic tour guide to Houdini’s life—is easily tricked by his supportive-seeming hero. Harry, Zeke, and Houdini are all just the right amount of snarky, and while Harry’s terrifying adventure has an occasionally inconsistent voice, the humor and tension make this an appealing page-turner. Archival photographs of Harry Houdini make the ghostly visitation feel closer. Zeke is Black, and Harry Houdini, as he was in life, is a White Jewish immigrant.

Funny, scary in the right moments, and offering plenty of historical facts. (historical note, bibliography) (Supernatural adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4515-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A wonderfully frightening tale.

NO PLACE FOR MONSTERS

From the No Place for Monsters series , Vol. 1

Children are snatched from their beds and erased from all memory.

Levi and Kat often feel like they’re the only ones out of place in their small suburban town of Cowslip Grove. The two children feel a slight remove from their classmates and families; the one thing binding them together is their ability to see what everyone else cannot: Children are disappearing. And no one else seems to remember these children ever existed. After Levi’s younger sister, Twila, is taken by this evil force, Levi and Kat embark on a journey into the town’s sinister past to try to save her and stop the monster once and for all. The spooky tale is complemented by ink illustrations that will give even the bravest reader a case of the willies. The narrative is smartly structured, moving the characters forward at a perfect pace that balances the tricky trifecta of thrills, exposition, and character development. This is one hell of a middle-grade read, the kind that will spark imaginations as it is read late at night under the covers with a flashlight. Levi and Kat appear White; the black-and-white illustrations seem to show some human ethnic diversity. (This review has been updated to reflect changes to the final book.)

A wonderfully frightening tale. (Horror. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-12853-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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