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

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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.

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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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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