From the Polly & Buster series , Vol. 1

“Polly Proggett is terrible at spells, which is rather unfortunate when you’re a witch.”

Polly’s magical ineptitude, a source of considerable frustration, has left her without a single witch or warlock to call friend. Luckily, she has Buster, “who is kind and lovely and likes Polly no matter what.” Polly and Buster have been thick as thieves since childhood, secretly meeting every day after school in their favorite backyard tree—but there’s a problem. Buster’s a member of the monster underclass, and monsters and witches do not mix. A field trip to an art museum draws Polly closer to a popular former enemy, but everything goes awry when she runs into Buster, whom she snubs harshly. Shrinking, quite literally, under the weight of her rejection, Buster becomes the target of abuse from his classmates. A repentant Polly rushes to defend her friend, accidentally casting an extraordinarily powerful Protector spell. A twisting of events transforms Polly into a local hero, but at what cost to her cherished friendship? Rippin cultivates an emotive third-person narrative with stark simplicity. Stylistic typographical gimmicks pepper the text throughout but never detract from the flow of the story. By contrast, the pacing feels rushed at times, sometimes jarringly so, but a lively marriage of magic and mayhem makes for an easy read even as tensions between witches and monsters rise. Humanoid characters default to white. Sequel The Mystery of the Magic Stones publishes simultaneously.

Quite bewitching. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61067-926-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.


From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock”...


The theme of persistence (for better or worse) links four tales of magic, trickery, and near disasters.

Lachenmeyer freely borrows familiar folkloric elements, subjecting them to mildly comical twists. In the nearly wordless “Hip Hop Wish,” a frog inadvertently rubs a magic lamp and finds itself saddled with an importunate genie eager to shower it with inappropriate goods and riches. In the title tale, an increasingly annoyed music-hating witch transforms a persistent minstrel into a still-warbling cow, horse, sheep, goat, pig, duck, and rock in succession—then is horrified to catch herself humming a tune. Athesius the sorcerer outwits Warthius, a rival trying to steal his spells via a parrot, by casting silly ones in Ig-pay Atin-lay in the third episode, and in the finale, a painter’s repeated efforts to create a flattering portrait of an ogre king nearly get him thrown into a dungeon…until he suddenly understands what an ogre’s idea of “flattering” might be. The narratives, dialogue, and sound effects leave plenty of elbow room in Blocker’s big, brightly colored panels for the expressive animal and human(ish) figures—most of the latter being light skinned except for the golden genie, the blue ogre, and several people of color in the “Sorcerer’s New Pet.”

Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock” music. (Graphic short stories. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59643-750-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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