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

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 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013


An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021


A thoughtful, humorous, community-centered exploration of identity and Buddhism.

Stories of Buddha’s past lives help a young boy “find [himself] in the moment.”

Binh and his siblings, who are of Vietnamese descent, can’t believe they’re spending the weekend at a silent meditation retreat. Binh would rather play his Game Boy so he doesn’t have to meditate and inevitably think about the bullies at school. It is only when Sister Peace tells stories about the Buddha and his past life that Binh is able to imagine himself entering a video game–inspired world and thus process his feelings of shame, isolation, and anger. With each Jataka tale, Binh’s awareness expands, and so, too, does his ability to be present for and helpful to those around him. A welcome addition to the handful of middle-grade stories featuring Buddhist protagonists, this exploration of identity and Buddhist principles will find an audience with young readers who love Raina Telgemeier but aren’t quite ready to level up to the complexity and nuance of Gene Luen Yang’s epic American Born Chinese (2006). The video game elements are compelling, although they understandably diminish as the story progresses and the protagonist’s inner life grows. Warm fall colors and luscious black lines anchor the story as it transitions among flashbacks, stories, and the present day. Filled with talking animals, the parables can be a little heavy-handed, but the witty banter between Binh and the narrator during fantasy sequences provides levity. (This review was updated for accuracy.)

A thoughtful, humorous, community-centered exploration of identity and Buddhism. (bibliography) (Graphic fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9780759555488

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Little, Brown Ink

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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