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Scattered but ultimately enjoyable.

Not all doors should be entered.

In an unspecified realm where universes seem to align sits an orphanage and detective agency run by the brothers Flick, a quartet of quick-witted youths: empathetic Desmond, leader Leopold, inventor Remington, and baby Wolfgang. The orphanage is home to a few helpful adults, but Leopold is the self-appointed caretaker since the deaths of the Flick parents. When a boy with limited memories crawls out of a well that he never fell into, the brothers agree to solve the mystery, although it appears to be only one part of a greater puzzle. Along the way, the brothers encounter phantom dogs, pixie problems, shadowy monsters, and more—and discover doors, and a key, to other realms. The illustrations have a “Jonny Quest meets the Hardy Boys” vibe with a few modern twists, such as Remington’s futuristic wheelchair and the elegantly communicated visual representation of the sign language he uses. Based on design alone, this graphic novel will attract mystery and adventure fans by the droves, but the meandering plot and odd reveals along the way may frustrate those looking to solve the cases before (or alongside) the detectives. The denouement is satisfactory in that the big questions are answered, and readers who are invested solely in the adventure elements will most likely be pleased. Overall, the minimysteries are fun fluff surrounding a surprisingly profound central conundrum. The brothers are light-skinned; the other children in the orphanage are diverse.

Scattered but ultimately enjoyable. (Graphic novel. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63849-104-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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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

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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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