A boy finds a creative coping mechanism in this original tale that speaks to the heart.

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STUNTBOY, IN THE MEANTIME

Not-so-secret superhero by day and kid from apartment 4D by day as well, Portico “Stuntboy” Reeves will need all his tricks to withstand the great threat facing his family and the anxiety that comes with it.

Portico loves living in Skylight Gardens, an apartment complex as large as a castle, but he cherishes the people and community the most—with the exception of Herbert Singletary the Worst. Herbert is a bully and often a source of Portico’s “frets,” or debilitating anxiety, but neighbor and bestie Zola provides great support to both Portico and his super alter ego. The latter’s purpose is to keep all the other uniquely heroic folk in Skylight Gardens safe through an arsenal of self-sacrificing distractions and awkward hijinks. Raul the Third’s illustrations are both dynamic and cleverly slapstick as Portico skillfully tumbles down stairs to prevent an older resident from falling or flops in front of his parents to momentarily stop them from fighting. Reynolds’ narrative gradually reveals the impact Portico’s parents’ impending separation is having on their deeply sensitive son even as he can’t fully grasp what’s going on around him. Superlative, action-packed art and cheeky narration combine to tell a story of emotional intelligence on a superheroic scale while remaining consistently funny and undeniably thoughtful. Most characters read as Black.

A boy finds a creative coping mechanism in this original tale that speaks to the heart. (additional sketches) (Adventure. 7-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-534-41816-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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THE FIRST CAT IN SPACE ATE PIZZA

Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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