A moving testimony to the process of navigating abrupt, painful change—and the life-altering impact of true friendship

HELEN'S BIRDS

This wordless graphic novel is surprisingly direct in its treatment of intergenerational friendship, grief, and hope.

Casson’s four-color illustrations—rendered in colored pencil, Photoshop, and pastel—gently take up Cassidy’s story of a mother and her young child who move into a new neighborhood and befriend an elderly neighbor: Helen. Panels of varying sizes trace the child’s friendship with Helen over what appears to be several years as they play cards, read together, and study the birds that visit Helen’s yard. One night, the child is awakened by sirens and flashing lights, silently conveyed through disorienting, large red circles splashed across the pages. From the window, the child sees Helen being loaded into an ambulance; within two pages, Helen’s house is for sale. The child observes workmen removing Helen’s bird feeder and birdbath before the house itself is demolished, but the child does not appear to process the grief triggered by Helen’s passing until discovering one of their playing cards in the construction rubble. Facing grief seems to empower the child to move forward and carry on Helen’s legacy, tenderly rescuing a bird’s nest from a bush on Helen’s old property. Soon, the neighborhood is bursting with bird song once more. The three main characters, and indeed all others excepting two brown-skinned passersby, have yellow skin that could be read here as white.

A moving testimony to the process of navigating abrupt, painful change—and the life-altering impact of true friendship . (Graphic novel. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-038-5

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low.

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DOG MAN AND CAT KID

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 4

Recasting Dog Man and his feline ward, Li’l Petey, as costumed superheroes, Pilkey looks East of Eden in this follow-up to Tale of Two Kitties (2017).

The Steinbeck novel’s Cain/Abel motif gets some play here, as Petey, “world’s evilest cat” and cloned Li’l Petey’s original, tries assiduously to tempt his angelic counterpart over to the dark side only to be met, ultimately at least, by Li’l Petey’s “Thou mayest.” (There are also occasional direct quotes from the novel.) But inner struggles between good and evil assume distinctly subordinate roles to riotous outer ones, as Petey repurposes robots built for a movie about the exploits of Dog Man—“the thinking man’s Rin Tin Tin”—while leading a general rush to the studio’s costume department for appropriate good guy/bad guy outfits in preparation for the climactic battle. During said battle and along the way Pilkey tucks in multiple Flip-O-Rama inserts as well as general gags. He lists no fewer than nine ways to ask “who cut the cheese?” and includes both punny chapter titles (“The Bark Knight Rises”) and nods to Hamilton and Mary Poppins. The cartoon art, neatly and brightly colored by Garibaldi, is both as easy to read as the snappy dialogue and properly endowed with outsized sound effects, figures displaying a range of skin colors, and glimpses of underwear (even on robots).

More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93518-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

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What a wag.

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DOG MAN

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 1

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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