A series that began as a Wimpy Kid wannabe moves up to a cabin in first class.

TROLL OVERBOARD

From the Life of Zarf series , Vol. 3

Zarf, middle school troll, is tricked into a quest for magic beans that takes him into—and then out of—the belly of the beast. Blech.

There are pirates involved, too, not to mention monsters, a sea witch named Ursula (no relation to the one in Little Mermaid—really), and a friendly mer-pig. It all starts when royal classmate Prince Roquefort, justly dubbed a “little waste of oxygen,” persuades Zarf’s seagoing grandpa to take him on a short cruise. Suspicious, Zarf comes along. Indeed, it seems that the prince has concocted a scheme to recover the beans from Jack’s beanstalk, which had been dumped in the ocean as an anti-giant measure, and use their magic to make himself…taller. Disasters, of course, ensue as Zarf and the prince are temporarily swallowed by a finny monster, stranded on a small island with Zarf’s histrionic porcine buddy, and then captured by the somewhat-less-fearsome-than-advertised pirate Redbeard the Unapproachable. Harrell plugs cartoon line drawings of comically disgruntled or distraught figures into the narrative on nearly every page to deliver sly gags and punch lines while navigating the plot toward a bean-tastic battle with the outsized witch. The humans, a minority here, look white, though on the colored cover Zarf has light brown skin under a tuft of orange hair.

A series that began as a Wimpy Kid wannabe moves up to a cabin in first class. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4105-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart.

I'M OK

When Korean-American Ok Lee loses his father in a construction accident, he and his mom must fend for themselves financially while quietly grieving.

Middle schooler Ok watches as his mother takes on multiple jobs with long hours trying to make ends meet. Determined to help, he sets his sights on his school’s talent show. The winner takes home $100 in cash, enough to pay the utilities before they get cut off. His search to find a bankable talent is complicated by unwanted attention from bully Asa, who’s African-American, and blackmail at the hands of a strange classmate named Mickey, who’s white. To make matters worse, his mother starts dating Deacon Koh, “the lonely widower” of the First Korean Full Gospel Church, who seems to have dubious motives and “tries too hard.” Narrator Ok navigates this full plot with quirky humor that borders on dark at times. His feelings and actions dealing with his grief are authentic. Most of the characters take a surprising turn, in one way or another helping Ok despite initial, somewhat stereotypical introductions and abundant teasing with racial jokes. Although most of the characters go through a transformation, Ok’s father in comparison is not as fleshed-out, and Asa’s African-American Vernacular English occasionally feels repetitive and forced.

A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1929-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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An entertaining continuation to a magical series that celebrates diversity with a magical twist.

WISHED

From the Fairy Tale Reform School series , Vol. 5

With Rumpelstiltskin and his band of villains still on the loose, the students and staff of Fairy Tale Reform School are on high alert as they prepare for the next attack.

Classes are devoted to teaching battle techniques and conjuring new weapons, which narrator Gilly finds preferable to learning history or manners. But Maxine, her ogress friend, has had it with all the doom and gloom. The last straw is when the agenda at the Royal Lady-in-Waiting meeting is changed from “How to Plan the Perfect Fairy Garden Party” to designing flying rocks and creating flower darts. While on a class field trip to the village to investigate their future careers, Maxine finds a magic lamp housing a genie named Darlene. Her wish that everyone be happy works a little too well. War preparations are put on hold as the school fills with flowers, laughter, and plans for a musical production. But when Gilly is tapped to fill in for the local chief of the dwarf police, things really take a turn for the worse. The students, including fairies, ogres, and the part-human/part-beast offspring of Beauty and the ex-Beast, focus on friendship and supporting one another in spite of their differences. Humility, forgiveness, and loyalty are also highly regarded in the FTRS community. Human Gilly is white, but there is racial as well as species diversity at FTRS.

An entertaining continuation to a magical series that celebrates diversity with a magical twist. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5167-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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