In Stoker-on-Avon, the townsfolk have been feeling a bit dismayed; their monster, a horned, winged creature named Rayburn,...

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MONSTER ON THE HILL

In an alternative 19th-century England, monsters both thrill and protect their towns.

In Stoker-on-Avon, the townsfolk have been feeling a bit dismayed; their monster, a horned, winged creature named Rayburn, hasn’t attacked in nearly seven years, and his lack of ambition serves as a constant embarrassment to his village. A disgraced doctor is asked to help “fix” the melancholic monster, and once he accepts, he discovers that a precocious street urchin has stowed along for the ride. The pair and the bummed-out beast set out to visit one of Rayburn’s old creature friends, a savage-looking beast with a heart of gold popularly known as Tentaculor, but affectionately to his friends as Noodles. This leaves Stoker-on-Avon vulnerable and without a monster. Rayburn’s absence is intuited by an abominable being known as the Murk, a mixture of mud, hair, and pure, unrefined evil. Faced with the imminent destruction of his town, Rayburn must overcome his dolorous disposition and rediscover his true terrifying powers. More at-home than anomalous, Harrell’s world is easily accessible, a place where monsters seamlessly blend into 19th-century England. Touching deftly upon well-trod themes and with a deliciously cinematic sense of both framing and pacing, this indie charmer is both quirky and novel; expect it to appeal to fans of Jeff Smith’s Bone series.

Just plain monstrous fun. (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60309-075-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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A solid, not particularly daring addition to the hybrid format for middle-grade readers, mixing drama with heart.

POSITIVELY IZZY

This reader-friendly graphic/prose hybrid explores the lives of two very different girls who have an unexpected connection.

Izzy and Brianna both, separately, navigate difficult middle school experiences. Brianna, whose story is told entirely in sequential panels, is studious, reserved, and a little lonely. Izzy, who tells her story in paragraphs broken up by illustrations, is an unreliable middle sister with a love for performance and a lot of indifference toward schoolwork. Izzy sneaks out against her mother’s wishes to perform in the school talent show, while Bri’s mother (also a teacher at her school) convinces her to fill in for a sick actor. Both girls juggle complex family dynamics, shifting friend groups, and boys in the hours leading up to their performances. The story is light but resonant for middle graders, with constant comedic asides in the illustrations. Both girls appear white (based on the color cover), with multiracial supporting casts, and both threads of the story skirt larger issues. The opening pages, in which Bri complains about labels, hint at a larger theme that recedes into the background as the two girls struggle with their interpersonal relationships. Readers primed by the back-cover blurb will spend the whole book waiting for the two stories to intersect, with a surprise reveal at the end that may call for an immediate reread.

A solid, not particularly daring addition to the hybrid format for middle-grade readers, mixing drama with heart. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-248497-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Kibuishi gives his epic tale a hefty nudge toward its long-building climax while giving readers plenty of reasons to stick...

SUPERNOVA

From the Amulet series , Vol. 8

Stonekeeper Emily frees the elves from their monstrous masked ruler and sets out to rejoin her brother and mother in the series’ penultimate episode.

The multistranded storyline picks up with Emily’s return to the world of Alledia. Now a fiery, destructive phoenix struggling to regain control of her actions, Emily goes on to follow her brother Navin and allies as they battle invading shadows on the nearby world of Typhon, then switches back to human form for a climactic confrontation with the Elf King—in the course of which Emily rips off his mask to a chorus of “ERGH!! NO!!! GRAH! RRGH!! AAAGH!” to expose a rousingly hideous face. Cute animal heads on many figures (the result of a curse) and a scene with benevolent-looking trees provide at least a bit of relief from the grim expressions that all the human and humanoid elven characters almost invariably wear. But along with emphatic sound effects, the battle and action scenes in the cleanly drawn, if sometimes cramped, panels feature huge blasts of fire or energy, intricately detailed giant robots, weirdly eyeless monsters, and wild escapades aplenty to keep the pace’s pedal to the metal. Aliens and AIs in the cast come in a variety of hues, elves are a uniform gray, and except for a brief encounter between Emily and a slightly darker lad, the (uncursed) humans default to white.

Kibuishi gives his epic tale a hefty nudge toward its long-building climax while giving readers plenty of reasons to stick around for it. (Graphic fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-545-85002-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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