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

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 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021


The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

This is the way Pearl’s world ends: not with a bang but with a scream.

Pearl Moran was born in the Lancaster Avenue branch library and considers it more her home than the apartment she shares with her mother, the circulation librarian. When the head of the library’s beloved statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is found to be missing, Pearl’s scream brings the entire neighborhood running. Thus ensues an enchanting plunge into the underbelly of a failing library and a city brimful of secrets. With the help of friends old, uncertainly developing, and new, Pearl must spin story after compelling story in hopes of saving what she loves most. Indeed, that love—of libraries, of books, and most of all of stories—suffuses the entire narrative. Literary references are peppered throughout (clarified with somewhat superfluous footnotes) in addition to a variety of tangential sidebars (the identity of whose writer becomes delightfully clear later on). Pearl is an odd but genuine narrator, possessed of a complex and emotional inner voice warring with a stridently stubborn outer one. An array of endearing supporting characters, coupled with a plot both grounded in stressful reality and uplifted by urban fantasy, lend the story its charm. Both the neighborhood and the library staff are robustly diverse. Pearl herself is biracial; her “long-gone father” was black and her mother is white. Bagley’s spot illustrations both reinforce this and add gentle humor.

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.   (reading list) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6952-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019


Kids tackle problems both supernatural and real in this atmospheric story.

During a summer in coastal Maine, the kids of Spruce Point work to break a ghostly curse and save a family inn.

The Home Away Inn has been in 12-year-old Parker Emerton’s family for generations, and he wants to keep it that way, but unlucky occurrences mean money is tight, and Parker’s parents are contemplating selling. He worries about having to leave this place he loves. Along with his younger sister, Bailey; two cousins; and summer friend Frankie, Parker is convinced that a ghost has placed a curse on the place. The kids also suspect grouchy neighbor Mrs. Gruvlig of being a witch. In seeking to contact the ghost and investigate suspected supernatural phenomena, the kids end up solving some of the inn’s problems—just not the way they expected. Most of the phenomena turn out to have rational causes, but a bright green flashing light remains unexplained. The strange happenings draw television ghost hunters to Spruce Point, guaranteeing full rooms at the inn. This is a well-paced mystery with a strong sense of place and solidly developed, realistic relationships. Siblings, cousins, and friends work together closely—they have a high degree of independence but do not lack parental oversight. Parker is adopted, and his school counselor believes he has obsessive tendencies; these facts come up in passing. Main characters default to White.

Kids tackle problems both supernatural and real in this atmospheric story. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8611-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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