Reaches great heights of humor—of course.

MOTHERING HEIGHTS

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 10

"Love is something eternal. It may change in aspect, but not in essence." Quoting Vincent Van Gogh in its epigraph, this latest adventure in the Dog Man saga ramps the previous installment’s love theme up to 11. From the nascent romance of Chief and Nurse Lady through the ever evolving familial bond between Petey and Li’l Petey to some begrudgingly partnered cats in crime, the story doles out the sap more gleefully than a maple tree in spring—but never at the expense of the action-packed shenanigans so characteristic of the series. The villains of the hour (a pair of evil, sentient, mobile sippy cups) are realized with gusto and panache, with almost a third of the book and a great deal of ensemble help devoted to the epic battle. Indeed, the series seems en route to becoming more of an ensemble affair as it progresses, an unexpected but not unwelcome development. True to form, Petey’s arc metes out a dose of sobering reality; the overbearing societal forces keeping him chained to the life of a criminal are played dramatically against the redemptive power of forgiveness and love. Striking color, interactive pages, drawing tutorials, and a plethora of laugh-out-loud moments all work to keep readers’ attention on a tight leash. Of especial note is the liberal use of increasingly bizarre onomatopoeia, several instances of which contain amusing pop-culture references. Human characters are diverse. Reaches great heights of humor—of course.  (Graphic adventure. 7-18)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-68045-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

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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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Fans of the series will be delighted.

CLASH

From the Click series , Vol. 4

Can Olive stay positive when a social-climbing bully moves to town?

In her fourth adventure, sixth grader Olive Branche is on top of the world until new girl Natasha begins to encroach on her friendships, slowly and methodically freezing her out of her many different social circles. Relentlessly optimistic Olive tries to stay genial despite Nat’s overt jibes, but when Nat takes it to a new level and ruins Olive’s carefully planned Halloween party, Olive finally confronts her. When Nat finds herself consequently ostracized, empathetic Olive has a change of heart and extends her an olive branch (groan). Olive and Nat’s relationship is highly idealized, bordering almost on wish fulfillment; Nat’s backstory offers some explanation for her behavior, but she is accepted back into the fold more easily than may seem realistic. Olive’s appeal is in her unceasing Pollyanna-like sunniness and her ability to be accommodating and find the best in every situation. Though consistent in tone with its predecessors, in this entry Olive does have some moments of anger (albeit quickly reconciled); her portrayal here is the most human she’s been throughout the series. Although this is the fourth installment, each volume is mostly self-contained, making this equally accessible for established and new readers. Olive and Nat read as White; the supporting cast is inclusive and diverse.

Fans of the series will be delighted. (Halloween costume craft ideas, author Q&A) (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-24220-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Etch/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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