A funny summer-camp story with a culturally specific slant.

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Brosgol (Leave Me Alone, 2016, etc.) draws on her bittersweet memories of attending Russian summer camp in this accessible graphic novel.

Convinced that she will never fit in with the American girls in her class because her family is “too poor,” “too Russian,” and “too different,” 9-year-old Vera jumps at the opportunity to attend Russian summer camp in hopes of finding a peer group she can belong to. However, Russian camp in the Connecticut woods is not at all what she had expected: Her tentmates are two mean girls five years her senior, she doesn’t click with any of the other girls, and the outhouse, nicknamed “Hollywood,” completely weirds her out. When all of Vera’s misguided attempts to fit in with the other kids backfire, she resigns herself to waiting out the miserable days till her mother picks her up—until she unexpectedly succeeds in making one good friend. Vera’s wide-eyed optimism and subsequent frustrations come to life through the vivid interplay between Brosgol’s humorous text and her black, white, and olive-green illustrations, colored by Longstreth. While the culturally specific references will particularly resonate with kids of Russian heritage, the larger story will strike chords with any kid who has ever struggled to find a place to belong. It will especially speak to that segment of the population who dreads summer camp, an experience that translates across many cultures. Vera, her schoolmates, and her campmates are all pale-skinned.

A funny summer-camp story with a culturally specific slant. (author’s note) (Graphic memoir. 8-14)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-444-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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