Readers who stick around to see Vera become her own hero are in for a satisfying read.

VERA VANCE, COMICS STAR

From the After-School Superstars series , Vol. 2

Vera Vance attends comics-making camp and dreams of attending the final field trip in this installment of the After-School Superstars series.

Third-grader Vera Vance is totally into comics, so she is excited to attend an after-school camp devoted to making comics with her friend Nixie (of Nixie Ness, Cooking Star, 2019). Vera has a hard time sticking up for herself, so she suffers through experiences like making a final project with Nixie when she really wants to work on her own project. And when her mom, who values grades and piano but not comics, says no to the camp’s final field trip to a comic-con, Vera is crushed, seeing no way to change her mother’s mind. But at the last minute, all her camp lessons about the hero’s journey and the power of comics come together with Vera’s talent to make a pretty brilliant bid for reaching her goal. Vera’s shyness will be appreciated and understood by many readers. Her character stays real throughout, and the lovely wrap-up shows how every personality type in any situation can find a way to use their strengths to reach their goals. Vera’s dad died years ago, a fact remarked on in brief but emotional musings. Full-page, black-and-white illustrations punctuate most chapters, depicting brown-skinned Vera with an afropuff and Nixie as white, while the small font pushes the boundary between chapter book and middle grade.

Readers who stick around to see Vera become her own hero are in for a satisfying read. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4094-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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What a wag.

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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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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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