This urban Alice in Wonderland combines excitement and reflection to take readers on a colorfully wild ride through an...

MAX & CHARLIE

In this graphic novel, a boy searches a surreal New York City for his lost dog, learning much about the world and himself.

Charlie, an imaginative youngster, enjoys spinning fantasies with his best buddy, Max the beagle, who plays “Sgt. Slobberface” to Charlie’s “Skyfighter 3030” in adventures reminiscent of Calvin’s Spaceman Spiff daydreams in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. One day, the two go out for a walk, and Max pulls at the leash to sniff and explore things. Charlie unfastens the dog’s lead when the two lie down for a nap in the park, but when the boy falls asleep, a passing cat with glowing aqua eyes galvanizes Max into a headlong chase. Charlie—his brown hair now also a shade of aqua, a subtle signal that readers are in dream time—runs behind, following Max out of the park, down to the subway, onto a car, and through New York City. Charlie has a series of often frightening Alice in Wonderland-style encounters with urban figures—subway riders, transit cops, street corner philosophers, skeletal socialites, a bike messenger—who all share their own worldviews. Charlie escapes from sticky situations, gets help from kind people, rescues Max from mean punks, and finds himself in a nightmarish amusement park. A recurring figure, an elderly African-American man, helps Charlie understand that “you alone control you, your energy. Your happiness and sadness…your fright, excitement.” Charlie (again with brown hair) wakes up with Max from their nap in the still-sunny park, and they play a joyous game of Frisbee. Debut author Lieberman, a filmmaker and media producer, brings cinematic energy to this dynamic, always-unfolding story, with good dialogue that captures a variety of speech. Debut illustrator Neubert’s illustrations, lavishly produced in full color on glossy paper, contribute greatly to the characterization and the storytelling, especially in the book’s wordless, more fantastic sections. In some ways, though, the book could use more surreality and nonsense, instead of explicitly teaching lessons, which may not appeal to young readers. Also, the presence of a magical African-American character who helps the white protagonist comes off as something of a cliché.

This urban Alice in Wonderland combines excitement and reflection to take readers on a colorfully wild ride through an archetypal New York.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Exit Strategy, New Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2016

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Not everybody lives, and certainly not “happily ever after”—but within all the grisly darkness, Alice’s fierce integrity and...

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THE HAZEL WOOD

From the Hazel Wood series , Vol. 1

A ferocious young woman is drawn into her grandmother’s sinister fairy-tale realm in this pitch-black fantasy debut.

Once upon a time, Althea Proserpine achieved a cult celebrity with Tales from the Hinterland, a slim volume of dark, feminist fairy tales, but Alice has never met her reclusive grandmother nor visited her eponymous estate. Instead, she has spent her entire 17 years on the run from persistent bad luck, relying only on her mother, Ella. Now Althea is dead and Ella has been kidnapped, and the Hinterland seems determined to claim Alice as well. The Hinterland—and the Stories that animate it—appear as simultaneously wondrous and horrific, dreamlike and bloody, lyrical and creepy, exquisitely haunting and casually, brutally cruel. White, petite, and princess-pretty Alice is a difficult heroine to like in her stormy (and frequently profane) narration, larded with pop-culture and children’s-literature references and sprinkled with wry humor; her deceptive fragility conceals a scary toughness, icy hostility, and simmering rage. Despite her tentative friendship (and maybe more) with Ellery Finch, a wealthy biracial, brown-skinned geek for all things Althea Proserpine, any hints of romance are negligible compared to the powerful relationships among women: mothers and daughters, sisters and strangers, spinner and stories; ties of support and exploitation and love and liberation.

Not everybody lives, and certainly not “happily ever after”—but within all the grisly darkness, Alice’s fierce integrity and hard-won self-knowledge shine unquenched. (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-14790-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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