As always, hilarious; perhaps the strongest Princess in Black outing since the first.

THE PRINCESS IN BLACK TAKES A VACATION

From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 4

As the title suggests, the Princess in Black attempts to take a much-needed vacation.

Worn down by constant monster alarms, Princess Magnolia, aka the Princess in Black, can hardly stay awake when fighting the furry, brightly colored monsters menacing her kingdom—this is seen in a funny fight sequence where her usual attacks have been replaced with such maneuvers as the “sluggish swing” and “double dozy.” Luckily, a new hero arrives: the Goat Avenger, who has the same height and smile as Duff the goat boy but “couldn’t be Duff. Duff did not wear a mask.” Duff—as the Goat Avenger—suggests that the princess needs a vacation and offers to handle monster duty in her absence. Princess Magnolia hits the beach and runs into Princess Sneezewort before settling in for a nap—which is promptly interrupted by a giant rampaging sea monster! This nifty battle sequence alternates with scenes of Duff, who amps himself up for battling monsters, liberates a squirrel that has set off a false alarm, and is finally assisted by the squirrel in facing an acorn monster. The dual storylines keep the pace exciting, and—even though the protagonist is sleepy—the art is energetic and charming. Princess Magnolia has fair skin, Duff’s is a little bit darker, and the beachgoers are pleasingly diverse.

As always, hilarious; perhaps the strongest Princess in Black outing since the first. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6512-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How To Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A strong series start.

GAME OVER, SUPER RABBIT BOY!

From the Press Start! series , Vol. 1

In a video game, a superpowered rabbit must rescue a singing dog that brings everyone happiness.

In the frame story, a brown-skinned human protagonist plays a video game on a handheld console evocative of the classic Nintendo Gameboy. The bulk of the book relates the game’s storyline: Animal Town is a peaceful place where everyone is delighted by Singing Dog, until the fun-hating King Viking (whose black-mustachioed, pink-skinned looks reference the Super Mario Brothers game series villain, Wario) uses his army of robots to abduct Singing Dog. To save Singing Dog—and fun—the animals send the fastest among them, Simon the Hedgehog, to get Super Rabbit Boy (who gains speed and jumping powers by eating special carrots) to save the day. The chapters take Super Rabbit Boy through video game levels, with classic, video game–style settings and enemies. Throughout the book, when the game’s player loses either a life in the game or the game entirely, the unnamed kid must choose to persevere and not give up. The storylines are differentiated by colorful art styles—cartoonish for the real world, 8-bit pixel-sprite–style for the game. The fast, repetitive plot uses basic, simple sentences and child-friendly objects of interest, such as lakes of lava, for children working on reading independence, while the nerdy in-jokes benefit adults reading with a child.

A strong series start. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-03472-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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