SHERLOCK BONES AND THE NATURAL HISTORY MYSTERY

From the Sherlock Bones series

In this graphic offering, a skeletal sleuth and his stuffed sidekick are on the case to catch a museum thief.

At the State Natural History Museum reside Sherlock Bones, a tawny frogmouth skeleton, and his quiet companion, a taxidermic Indian ringneck parrot named Watts. One day the emergency alarm blares, and Bones quickly deduces that the museum’s Royal Blue Diamond has been stolen. As Bones and Watts investigate, they find that the diamond wasn’t the only pilfered property: Other blue items are also missing. With the help of new friend Grace, a chocolate-loving (and live) raccoon, the sleuths must gather clues and catch the thief before the museum is shut down and they are all sent into the dark and dusty recesses of storage. Treml’s graphic mystery will most certainly delight fledgling eagle-eyed detectives who can spot cleverly placed clues (and red herrings) in the tidy panels alongside cheery heroes Bones and Watts. Interspersed throughout the narrative are fun facts covering a swath of natural science from beetles to butterflies. While Treml’s art is eye-catching, the black-and-white presentation is a disappointing choice for such a visual offering that relies heavily on color to propel its plot. This quibble aside, mystery aficionados should enjoy the chance to solve the case alongside the lovable cast of animal characters.

A nifty whodunit. (Graphic mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-31184-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Etch/HMH

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low.

DOG MAN AND CAT KID

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 4

Recasting Dog Man and his feline ward, Li’l Petey, as costumed superheroes, Pilkey looks East of Eden in this follow-up to Tale of Two Kitties (2017).

The Steinbeck novel’s Cain/Abel motif gets some play here, as Petey, “world’s evilest cat” and cloned Li’l Petey’s original, tries assiduously to tempt his angelic counterpart over to the dark side only to be met, ultimately at least, by Li’l Petey’s “Thou mayest.” (There are also occasional direct quotes from the novel.) But inner struggles between good and evil assume distinctly subordinate roles to riotous outer ones, as Petey repurposes robots built for a movie about the exploits of Dog Man—“the thinking man’s Rin Tin Tin”—while leading a general rush to the studio’s costume department for appropriate good guy/bad guy outfits in preparation for the climactic battle. During said battle and along the way Pilkey tucks in multiple Flip-O-Rama inserts as well as general gags. He lists no fewer than nine ways to ask “who cut the cheese?” and includes both punny chapter titles (“The Bark Knight Rises”) and nods to Hamilton and Mary Poppins. The cartoon art, neatly and brightly colored by Garibaldi, is both as easy to read as the snappy dialogue and properly endowed with outsized sound effects, figures displaying a range of skin colors, and glimpses of underwear (even on robots).

More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93518-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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