A satisfying second helping for readers unfazed by gimmicks.

BILLY STUART IN THE MINOTAUR'S LAIR

From the Billy Stuart series , Vol. 2

Raccoon Billy Stuart and his multispecies scout pack continue their hide-and-seek through time, venturing back into ancient Greece.

Picking up right where series opener Billy Stuart and the Zintrepids (2018) left off, the crew emerges from the passageway in Belcher’s Cavern and tries to get their bearings. A note from Billy’s grandfather suggests they get to “the heart of the city’s maze” to find a clue that will offer some direction. After a crawfish snack and a crocodile attack, Billy and friends find themselves in the company of armed human soldiers who take them to the island of Crete, where King Minos sends the animal quintet into the labyrinth to be the Minotaur’s next meal. Will they survive long enough to find the clue that will lead them to Billy’s grandfather? And, better yet, home? True to the format established in the first book in this French-Canadian series, this sequel has no shortage of comedic moments (often exaggerated via comic-book panels) or brain-busting puzzle interludes. Unlike the first book, which supplied an overabundance of exposition, this text strikes the right balance. Billy’s histrionic first-person narration is further exaggerated by words set apart from the text in various brightly colored display types. Though amusing, the author’s sticky-note interjections border on distracting. Another abrupt ending implies a third text will soon be translated. A tendentious conversation with one of the soldiers about the date reifies Christian cultural primacy; human characters appear white.

A satisfying second helping for readers unfazed by gimmicks. (puzzle solutions) (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1840-8

Page Count: 16

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low.

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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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DOG MAN

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 1

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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