A lively turn for a lesser-known comic-book hero.

ZATANNA AND THE HOUSE OF SECRETS

The magical DC hero makes her middle-grade graphic-novel debut.

Zatanna and her magician father, a widower, live quiet lives. The white preteen balances friendships and homework like any other typical middle schooler while missing her departed mother. But one night Zatanna sneaks out to a dance and returns to find a pair of blue-skinned strangers standing in her own home, a home that has transformed into the House of Secrets. After one of the home invaders identifies herself as the Witch Queen and disappears with Zatanna’s father, Zatanna searches for him and discovers the true nature of her family’s past. Mystery and magic fill the graphic novel’s frames as Zatanna’s large, expressive eyes soak in the bizarre and fantastic flourishes. Readers with minimal knowledge of Zatanna’s role in DC Comics lore will have no trouble here: The story is easily appreciated by newbies and familiars alike. The bold, unoutlined artwork uses a purple, orange, and blue palette that helps the pictures stand apart from the four-color comic palette used by similar middle-grade DC Comics titles. The plot moves forward at an almost alarming speed, twisting and turning and enticing readers with a page-turning emotional mystery.

A lively turn for a lesser-known comic-book hero. (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4012-9070-2

Page Count: 152

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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This thrilling coming-of-age adventure is both quirky and sincere.

FLY ON THE WALL

Some things you must learn on your own.

In this graphic/prose hybrid, Henry Khoo embarks on a secret mission. Now that he’s 12, the legal age to travel alone, he has plans to fly from his Australian home to Singapore, where his father lives. As he haphazardly navigates his way to his flight, his tangled motivations slowly unfold. Initially it appears he wants to establish his independence, seeking reprieve from the overbearing eyes of older sister Jie, Mama, and wuxia drama–watching Popo. Soon the comedic narration reveals that Henry is confronting myriad issues: his emotionally and geographically distant father; his waning relationship with his best friend; and his need to hide his secret identity as the creator of the Fly on the Wall website. Spawned from Henry’s sense that he’s invisible to all, his online comics illustrate school gossip—and draw the opprobrium of the school administration. As in Lai’s debut, Pie in the Sky (2019), humorous line drawings punctuate the text and reveal Henry’s inner feelings. Flashbacks deftly illuminate Henry’s emotional journey to a wider worldview and eventual ownership of his feelings. Lai has a talent of not preaching to her readers, instead offering the reassurance that no one is alone in experiencing the painful awkwardness and occasionally harsh realities of growing up. Henry and his family are Chinese, and dialogue is occasionally bilingual.

This thrilling coming-of-age adventure is both quirky and sincere. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31411-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A fun, fantastical romp.

TIDESONG

A legacy of magic binds two aspiring hopefuls from different worlds together.

Inspired in part by East Asian cultures, this graphic novel’s prologue reveals that a dragon draws rebuke from her family when she leaves the sea to be with her love, a fisherman. Now known as the Wu clan, their descendants earn respect from the dragons when they combine their collective magic and repel a powerful hurricane the dragons sent to destroy the kingdom. From then on, the dragons promise to always answer the call of the Wu family. In the present day, 12-year-old Sophie Wu, an aspiring witch, is determined to perfect her spells for her audition to the Royal Magic Academy. She travels to stay with her young aunt, Sage, a recent Academy graduate, and her cantankerous great-aunt in Dragon Bay Harbor Town to learn from them. However, her great-aunt’s incessant negativity about her talents—which she hopes to disprove—and her own insecurities cause Sophie to lose control of a spell. A dragon named Lir becomes stuck in human form with no memories of what came before. A diplomatic conflict ensues that threatens the peace between dragons and humans unless Sophie and Lir are able to untangle their intertwined magic. Reminiscent of Kiki’s Delivery Service, the colorful panels are filled with movement, and the manga-style art pops. Characters have skin tones ranging from light to mid-brown and hair in varying shades of brown.

A fun, fantastical romp. (author’s note) (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-295579-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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