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

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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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Few chills and even less logic.

BENT HEAVENS

Can Liv put the pieces of her life back together after her father’s mental breakdown?

In rural Bloughton, Iowa, Liv takes solace in the cross country team and the idea that she will be off to college before too long. Three years ago, her father, the high school’s former English and drama teacher, vanished only to return naked and talking about alien abduction. He disappeared for good eight months later. Liv and her friend Doug check the elaborate traps her father built in the woods during those eight months every Sunday. The teacher who replaced him decides to stage the same musical that was her father’s swan song, and after getting in trouble for an outburst over her insensitivity, Liv decides to destroy the traps…but discovers that one has caught an alien. After hiding the horrifying creature in her father’s shed, they discover it has her father’s compass. In anger, Liv attacks the beast and then she and Doug torture it repeatedly as revenge for her missing father…but the alien is not what they perceive him to be, and as the truth is revealed, the horror mounts. Kraus’ (Blood Sugar, 2019, etc.) newest horror fantasy (there is no science here) might inspire more anger than horror as the protagonists respond to otherness with violence. Outrage will likely be followed by laughter at the stagy, manipulative, over-the-top conclusion. Most characters seem to be white.

Few chills and even less logic. (Horror. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-15167-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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