Pitched for chortles, not chills.

ROWLEY JEFFERSON’S AWESOME FRIENDLY SPOOKY STORIES

From the Awesome Friendly kid series

Fourteen original tales featuring ghosts, mummies, and other staples of beneath-the-bedsheets terror.

Actually, the scariest thing here is the cautionary preface, which warns away the easily frightened with enticing promises of “skeletons and zombies and human heads.” The stories deliver all of these and more, but invariably in a vein more comical than chilling—Anders, a disembodied head, matches up in school with Gunther, a headless body, to go after attractive classmate Prudence; an airport scanner turns everyone into skeletons (fun for a while, if boring at Halloween); a town survives the zombie apocalypse by creating “brains” made of tofu. In other highlights, two mummies duke it out in court after one trademarks “The Mummy” as a brand, and to win a science fair, young Victor literally makes a friend after visiting the cemetery behind his house. Rowley, credulous as ever, relates in the “100 percent TRUE” capper how his friend Greg Heffley became possessed by a demon after watching a horror movie on a sleepover and was only restored to himself by an application of toilet (in lieu of holy) water. Along with droll twists aplenty (Prudence ultimately goes off with Anders, leaving Gunther to grow up and become the Headless Horseman), Kinney tucks in one or more outline drawings on every page featuring racially indeterminate but White-presenting figures expressing, usually, exaggerated joy or dismay.

Pitched for chortles, not chills. (Short stories. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5697-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: April 8, 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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