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INVISIBLE EMMIE

Classic middle school themes come alive, but they fail to really go anywhere

One bad day in seventh grade can feel like a lifetime. However, even end-of-the-world–level heartache can have surprising and comic consequences.

Emmie’s story is part of the growing subgenre that hybridizes the middle-grade and graphic novel. With doodle-illustrated prose chapters depicting Emmie’s world and entire comics-style sections depicting the popular Kate, Libenson takes readers inside the halls of middle school with the same nod to weirdness and eye-rolling angst as such format standards as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries. Emmie is a painfully shy girl who is forced to see and be seen one fateful day when a playful game with best friend Brianna turns into a nightmare. Libenson uses two different illustration styles to distinguish between Emmie, the soft-spoken wallflower, and Kate, the outgoing girl of fabulousness. An artist using her doodles to illustrate the seventh-grade world, Emmie sees herself as someone with no voice, while the enigmatic, charismatic Kate is full of confidence and determined to push Emmie out of her comfort zone. Though readers may be puzzled by the device initially, Libenson’s rationale for the dual portrayals becomes clear in the end. However, the repetition of Emmie’s description as quiet, shy, and disenfranchised becomes as grating as a nasal whine. Both Emmie and Kate appear to be white, but school scenes reveal multiethnic classmates.

Classic middle school themes come alive, but they fail to really go anywhere . (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-248494-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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CHARLOTTE'S WEB

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

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A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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