THE SCARE SCHOOL

From the Just Beyond series , Vol. 1

Scaremeister Stine offers a graphic chiller about weird middle schools in parallel universes.

Dressed in infantilizing school uniforms with shorts and Mandarin jackets, Drake, Leeda, and their tag along, Buddy, find themselves in the parallel world of the Scare School, which has a very strange principal but more-conventionally attired students. Pursued by an insectile robot and betrayed by Buddy, an undercover captain in the student guard, Leeda and Drake are forced back into their own school universe to await an ominous punishment at the hands of the Master Dean. Back in the Scare School world, Jess, her twin brother, Josh, and his snarky best friend, Marco, accidentally fall into the portal that lands them in Leeda and Drake’s school. Though the students in Leeda and Drake’s school are also middle schoolers, their lessons are kindergarten level, as the Master Dean mysteriously keeps the students from growing up. After the kids from both realities are locked together in an empty room with bars on the window, they band together to destroy the Master Dean. This diverse cast includes brown-skinned Leeda and Marco; Drake, Jess, and Josh present white; the quisling Buddy presents Asian, unfortunately. The cluttered and confusingly paced illustrations have the feel of second-rate anime and do a disservice to this graphic-novel script, which has a bit of a Twilight Zone appeal. The open ending hints at a second installment that may offer more clues to this rather bizarre middle school wormhole.

Odd. (Graphic horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68415-416-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Like the pathfinders, readers will be crying, “Plus Ultra!” and hoping for the next adventure.

THE MYSTERY OF THE MOON TOWER

From the Pathfinders Society series , Vol. 1

Five intrepid, young pathfinders explore the environmentally volatile Windrose Valley in search of a fabled treasure.

Deep in Windrose Valley awaits an adventurous summer at Camp Pathfinder, founded by a renowned, eccentric pioneer named Henry Merriweather. Merriweather’s fixation on finding the legendary Windrose treasure serves as a grand catalyst for the campers’ quest. The eclectic group of campers—newcomer Kyle, history buff Beth, zany magician-in-training Harry, cheerleader/math queen Vic, and tinkerer Nate—sets off, running all over town to find Merriweather’s baroque tile markers. Eventually, their efforts lead them to the Merriweather Estate, where the campers slowly uncover the mystery behind the Moon Tower catastrophe. Shortly after the bizarre incident, Merriweather disappeared, and the town’s fortunes failed. As the adolescent pathfinders near the trail toward the Moon Tower and inch ever closer to the treasure, they learn more about the mythical Merriweather and his infamous obsession. Sedita, Seraydarian, and Hamaker’s series debut zips along nicely, mixing cryptic teases with affable characters. Though the quieter moments rarely make much of an impact, the authors’ exposition-heavy worldbuilding incites enthusiasm for the campers’ endeavor. The hints of magic in the snappy illustrations add another layer of allure. Featuring flashes of time slips and a racially diverse cast, this graphic novel hits all the right spots for the inevitable sequel.

Like the pathfinders, readers will be crying, “Plus Ultra!” and hoping for the next adventure. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-425-29186-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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