A whimsical rumination on friendship and being present in the moment.

BUG BOYS

In this quiet graphic novel, two beetle buddies share gentle adventures.

Rhino-B is a bold rhinoceros beetle who lives with his BFF, a stag beetle named Stag-B, in their charming mushroom home in Bug Village. In a series of vignettes, the duo experience their world by visiting the Insects’ Library, maintained by their friend Dome Spider; helping a neighboring beehive to obtain a lost crown from treacherous termites; and exploring the Deep Dirt Cave with Dome Spider and finding themselves in a bizarrely psychedelic moment. The beetles’ exploits may be unusual, but their friendship and its dynamics are familiar. While episodic, their adventures are low-key, with a meditative feel and an emphasis on staying focused in the present; one night, as the bugs gaze into the night sky, reflecting on anxieties around growing up, Stag-B sagely asserts, “The Earth is big and life is long. Just appreciate where you are now.” Readers looking for fast pacing or plot-driven works may be put off by the insistent introspection, but it will hit the spot for quieter readers. Knetzger’s background as a storyboard artist for the cartoon Adventure Time is highly visible, sharing its playfully absurdist feel throughout and even its dreamy pastel-hued aesthetic (supplied by Lynde). Rhino-B and Stag-B both identify as male.

A whimsical rumination on friendship and being present in the moment. (beetle facts) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9676-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Silly and inventive fast-paced fun

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INVESTIGATORS

From the InvestiGators series , Vol. 1

A zippy graphic-novel series opener featuring two comically bumbling reptile detectives.

As agents of SUIT (Special Undercover Investigation Team) with customized VESTs (Very Exciting Spy Technology) boasting the latest gadgetry, the bright green InvestiGators Mango and Brash receive their newest assignment. The reptilian duo must go undercover at the Batter Down bakery to find missing mustachioed Chef Gustavo and his secret recipes. Before long, the pair find themselves embroiled in a strange and busy plot with a scientist chicken, a rabid were-helicopter, an escape-artist dinosaur, and radioactive cracker dough. Despite the great number of disparate threads, Green manages to tie up most neatly, leaving just enough intrigue for subsequent adventures. Nearly every panel has a joke, including puns (“gator done!”), poop jokes, and pop-culture references (eagle-eyed older readers will certainly pick up on the 1980s song references), promising to make even the most stone-faced readers dissolve into giggles. Green’s art is as vibrant as an overturned box of crayons and as highly spirited as a Saturday-morning cartoon. Fast pacing and imaginative plotting (smattered with an explosion here, a dance number there) propel the action through a whimsical world in which a diverse cast of humans live alongside anthropomorphized reptiles and dinosaurs. With its rampant good-natured goofiness and its unrelenting fizz and pep, this feels like a sugar rush manifested as a graphic novel.

Silly and inventive fast-paced fun . (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21995-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more.

LONG DISTANCE

After moving to a new city, a girl attends a wilderness camp to help her make new friends.

When astronomy-obsessed 9-year-old Vega’s dad Wes gets a new job, the family moves from Portland to Seattle. Vega is not happy about this change and doesn’t want to leave her best friend behind, worrying they will grow apart. Vega’s dad Javi thinks making new friends will help her adjust, so he signs her up for Camp Very Best Friend, which is designed to help introverted local children build new friendships. Vega is not exactly eager to go but makes a deal with Wes, agreeing to try out camp as long as he tries to make a new friend too. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary outdoor adventure, and Vega and her fellow campers try to figure out what is really going on. The story smoothly incorporates STEM facts with insets on the page to define and highlight terms or tools. An unexpected twist toward the end of this fast-paced adventure that reveals the truth behind the camp will surprise readers. The clean, bright artwork is enhanced by panels of varying shapes and clear, easy-to-follow speech bubbles. Race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are not explicitly addressed; characters’ names and physical appearances indicate a broadly diverse cast starting with brown-skinned Vega and her two dads.

A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more. (Graphic fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5566-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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