A terrific middle-grade debut for a classic DC antihero.

THE MYSTERY OF THE MEANEST TEACHER

A JOHNNY CONSTANTINE GRAPHIC NOVEL

John Constantine joins the DC middle-grade stable.

John Constantine wasn’t always the dreamy occult detective envisioned by co-creator Alan Moore in the comics. This middle-grade graphic novel re-creates the character as Johnny Constantine, a fish-out-of-water Brit making his way in an American boarding school. On the run from some hostile spirits in his native England, Johnny hides out at the Junior Success Boarding School in Massachusetts. But America has its own fair share of demons—like Johnny’s homeroom teacher, Ms. Kayla. With the help of a fellow outcast named Anna (a character who may be more than what she seems), Johnny fights to reveal Ms. Kayla’s true nature. With crisp coloring and crackling panel work, this is the best of DC’s middle-grade graphic novels yet. A smart introduction to a lesser-known character, the novel benefits its main characters’ lack of all the cultural baggage that surrounds Batman, Wonder Woman, or Superman. Constantine’s mystical surroundings make for enchanting compositions, making this the best-looking DC book as well. Anna and Johnny develop an endearing friendship, and last-minute reveals will have DC fans tickled pink. Johnny and Anna are White, and Ms. Kayla is Black; overall, the student body appears to be diverse.

A terrific middle-grade debut for a classic DC antihero. (Graphic paranormal adventure. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-123-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read.

ALI CROSS

From the Ali Cross series , Vol. 1

The prolific king of the beach read is back with an intergenerational mystery for the 9-to-12-year-old set.

Ali Cross, the son of Patterson’s most famous creation, African American homicide detective Alex Cross, is “starting to think the worst might have happened” to his mixed-race friend Gabriel “Gabe” Qualls, who disappeared on Dec. 21 and hasn’t been heard from as of Christmas Eve, when the book opens. Ali offers an impromptu prayer for Gabe at the pre-holiday service at his all-black church as well as an impromptu press conference outside of it as journalists and paparazzi confront Alex about his alleged coma-inducing assault of a murder suspect’s father. Then someone robs the Crosses’ home that night along with four other homes; the Crosses’ Christmas gifts are stolen. Ali, obsessed with finding Gabe and feeling that these events will distract his dad and the police from searching for him, starts his own investigation—complete with looking at some contraband footage of Gabe’s unusually loaded backpack obtained by Ali’s stepmother, also a cop—and questioning his school and gaming pals, a diverse group. Writing in Ali’s voice with occasional cutaways to third-person chapters that follow Alex, Patterson sprinkles the narrative with pop-culture references even as he takes readers through the detective process.

Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53041-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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