A graphic-novel adaptation that could afford to lean more on its graphics.

In this graphic-novel version of Beatty’s 2015 fantasy, mystery and magic place a spotlight on a feral bookworm who won’t back down.

Twelve-year-old Serafina lives with her father in the basement of the Biltmore Estate in 1899 Asheville, North Carolina. She is the unofficial Chief Rat Catcher by night and is otherwise hidden from the world. When a mysterious cloaked figure kidnaps a girl at the Biltmore, Serafina joins forces with young Braeden Vanderbilt, Mr. Vanderbilt’s nephew, to uncover the assailant’s identity and find the girl, along with other missing children. A scrappy fighter and resourceful sleuth, Serafina pieces together clues and observations—about both the strange figure and herself—while also becoming more social in the upper halls of the Biltmore. The artwork makes effective use of lighting and color to bring to life the shadowy basement, glowing upper manor floors, and sepia-toned flashbacks. The surrounding forest is a character unto itself, alternately inviting or threatening depending on the weather. However, the narration dominates many pages, leading to an abundance of telling over showing. Indeed, while the titular black cloak threatens to spirit Serafina and Braeden away, the black boxes containing the book’s narration are far more constricting, cluttering the page and distracting from the visuals. Serafina, Braeden, and most other characters present White.

A graphic-novel adaptation that could afford to lean more on its graphics. (Graphic fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9781368072229

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023


Thoroughly, deliciously creepy.

A gathering of genuinely chilling tales, related by children in a classroom and presented in graphic format.

Invited by their teacher Ms. Nomed (mark the name) to tell “the eeriest story you have,” five young volunteers, variously light or dark of skin, stand up in turn to petrify their classmates. Alvin, for instance, shares a historical tale of a village that vanishes after previously friendly green bipedal “fish people” discover a taste for human flesh. Emily tells of a spaceship’s crew that looks human…right up until the tentacles shoot out of their eyes and mouths. Those and other tales that feature ghosts and conversations with a decapitated stranger are related in even tones that work effectively with the sepia and other subdued color schemes in Annable’s cartoon panels to provide properly slow builds to horrifying climaxes. The most lurid twist comes at the end of the last and longest entry, “The Door to Demons,” which turns out to be not made up at all but a frame story that touches off a mad scramble to escape a teacher who has suddenly transformed into a toothy, terrifying monster with a spectacularly weird upside-down head. It will take hardy readers indeed to sit comfortably in their own classrooms by day—or for that matter, hope for peaceful dreams at night—after these screamers.

Thoroughly, deliciously creepy. (Graphic horror. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 18, 2023

ISBN: 9781250195036

Page Count: 368

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023


A fun, fantastical romp.

A legacy of magic binds two aspiring hopefuls from different worlds together.

Inspired in part by East Asian cultures, this graphic novel’s prologue reveals that a dragon draws rebuke from her family when she leaves the sea to be with her love, a fisherman. Now known as the Wu clan, their descendants earn respect from the dragons when they combine their collective magic and repel a powerful hurricane the dragons sent to destroy the kingdom. From then on, the dragons promise to always answer the call of the Wu family. In the present day, 12-year-old Sophie Wu, an aspiring witch, is determined to perfect her spells for her audition to the Royal Magic Academy. She travels to stay with her young aunt, Sage, a recent Academy graduate, and her cantankerous great-aunt in Dragon Bay Harbor Town to learn from them. However, her great-aunt’s incessant negativity about her talents—which she hopes to disprove—and her own insecurities cause Sophie to lose control of a spell. A dragon named Lir becomes stuck in human form with no memories of what came before. A diplomatic conflict ensues that threatens the peace between dragons and humans unless Sophie and Lir are able to untangle their intertwined magic. Reminiscent of Kiki’s Delivery Service, the colorful panels are filled with movement, and the manga-style art pops. Characters have skin tones ranging from light to mid-brown and hair in varying shades of brown.

A fun, fantastical romp. (author’s note) (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-295579-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

Close Quickview