A rollicking, affectionate parody of fantasy role-playing.

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HOMEROOMS & HALL PASSES

Five heroes face their most trying quest yet: surviving middle school.

In the real world of Bríandalör, Albiorix and his band of fellow adventurers thwart evil forces, but, once a week, on Thursday nights, they meet at the local tavern for a game of Homerooms & Hall Passes, their fantasy role-playing escape. With dice and their imaginations, they transform into students who worry about class elections, algebra tests, spirit week, and the dreaded five-paragraph essay instead of magic, traps, and treasure. However, even with all his dedication to the game, Albiorix never could have predicted he and his friends would end up transported by a curse into the world of J.A. Dewar Middle School. Now they must struggle through the final two months of the semester in the lives of their characters or risk disappearing forever. Apart from remarks about pointy ears, shiny hair, and muscles, O’Donnell doesn’t give the characters much physical description, but the cover illustration and naming conventions suggest that both the Bríandalörians and middle schoolers are fairly diverse. Every chapter opens with an excerpt from the Homerooms & Hall Passes rule book, capturing the spirit of their tabletop role-playing game and foreshadowing upcoming encounters. Each adventurer learns a different lesson and grows through their humorous attempts at embodying their game personas. The villain is satisfyingly over-the-top, and his defeat befits the book’s silly sense of humor.

A rollicking, affectionate parody of fantasy role-playing. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-287214-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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THE WILLOUGHBYS RETURN

From the Willoughbys series

The incompetent parents from The Willoughbys (2008) find themselves thawed by global warming.

Henry and Frances haven’t aged since the accident that buried them in snow and froze them for 30 years in the Swiss Alps. Their Rip van Winkle–ish return is archly comedic, with the pair, a medical miracle, realizing (at last!) how much they’ve lost and how baffled they are now. Meanwhile, their eldest son, Tim, is grown and in charge of his adoptive father’s candy empire, now threatened with destitution by a congressional ban on candy (opposed by an unnamed Bernie Sanders). He is father to 11-year-old Richie, who employs ad-speak whenever he talks about his newest toys, like a remote-controlled car (“The iconic Lamborghini bull adorns the hubcaps and hood”). But Richie envies Winston Poore, the very poor boy next door, who has a toy car carved for him by his itinerant encyclopedia-salesman father. Winston and his sister, Winifred, plan to earn money for essentials by offering their services as companions to lonely Richie while their mother dabbles, spectacularly unsuccessfully, in running a B&B. Lowry’s exaggerated characters and breezy, unlikely plot are highly entertaining. She offers humorous commentary both via footnotes advising readers of odd facts related to the narrative and via Henry and Frances’ reentry challenges. The threads of the story, with various tales of parents gone missing, fortunes lost or never found, and good luck in the end, are gathered most satisfactorily and warmheartedly.

Highly amusing. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-42389-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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