The problem with the story isn’t just that it’s been reduced to a puzzle, but that there was so little else there to be...

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THE MISSING MOLA LISA

From the Q & Ray series

The mystery has always been a strange type of story. It often takes a terribly traumatic moment—a murder or kidnapping or theft—and turns it into a puzzle to be solved. Happily, the crime in this graphic novel isn’t particularly traumatic.

Students on a field trip are at the museum when the painting’s stolen right in front of them. It’s one of the most famous paintings in the world, the Mola Lisa. (All the characters are animals, and—unfortunately—they have jokey names like Mr. Shrew and Ms. Boar.) There’s no doubt that this is a puzzle, because the clues are laid out like game pieces. A shiny piece of confetti and a receipt from a magic shop are sitting on the floor of the museum. Readers new to the genre will find this refreshingly direct, but more seasoned ones will wish the story were a bit less schematic. The detectives have only a few character traits. Ray Ratzberg, for example, is a rat who loves cheese. Most of the jokes, sadly, are on that level, though the name of the school, Elm Tree Elementary, is a clever tongue twister. Even puzzle fans may be disappointed that there are so few suspects to challenge them.

The problem with the story isn’t just that it’s been reduced to a puzzle, but that there was so little else there to be reduced . (Graphic mystery. 6-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-5414-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

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

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. 19, 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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