A nuanced physical and emotional landscape aimed to capture experienced readers but likely to snag the occasional neophyte...

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BOAT OF DREAMS

An old man on an island and a young child in a city form a connection through messages in bottles and ships on paper in Brazilian Coelho's wordless, dreamlike spectacle.

An elderly white man wakes, alone but for a few avian companions, and discovers a blank piece of paper in a bottle washed up on the shore of his island home. After some consideration, he pencils on it an intricate drawing of a ship, returns the paper to the bottle, and tosses it back into the waves. Elsewhere, ensconced in an urban landscape, a dark-haired, pale-skinned child comes home to find an unmarked envelope on the doorstep—inside is the old man's drawing. From here, a journey commences—maybe in reality, maybe in a dream—bringing the two characters together in a brief, touching meeting. As with all wordless picture books, this narrative is a negotiation between illustrations and readers. Are these characters grandfather and grandchild crossing space? Future and past versions of the same person transcending time? Or perhaps simply a pair whose loneliness is eased by dreams born of isolation? With spreads defying the barrier of the gutter, varied visual perspectives, and expertly paced page turns, Coelho's methodical cacophony of highly detailed visual invention successfully (if narrowly) avoids miring the narrative momentum in its artistry.

A nuanced physical and emotional landscape aimed to capture experienced readers but likely to snag the occasional neophyte as well. (Picture book. 8 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-88448-528-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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