This solid addition to the series should please fans and newcomers alike.

THE MIDWINTER WITCH

Will Aster, accepted as a witch by his immediate family, find that approval with his extended family? And does Ariel, welcomed into the Vanissen fold, even want a family?

As the ward of the Vanissen family, Ariel’s now being trained in witchcraft, and in a world in which magic is passed down and learned within families, this should be a wonderful thing. But orphaned Ariel chafes against magical traditions and the emphasis on family, a response that appears to be the result of her understandable fear of abandonment and intimacy. Added to this are nightly dream visitations from a woman named Isabel Torres. Claiming to be her aunt, Isabel plants doubts about the Vanissens’ acceptance and feeds Ariel’s anti-traditionalist leanings. Meanwhile, the Midwinter Festival—an annual magical extended family reunion—is coming, and Aster wants to compete in the Jolrun for the title of Midwinter Witch. As the first boy to openly study witchcraft, he’ll be the first boy to compete. The Vanissens, Ariel, and nonmagical friend Charlie attend, but a surprise at the Jolrun causes conflict. Ostertag’s signature bold, clear, thick-lined illustrations are at work here, as are her fascinating magical world-within-a-world worldbuilding and thoughtfully inclusive approach to LGBTQ and racial representation. Aster is biracial, with a white mom and brown-skinned dad, Ariel has olive skin and dark hair, and Charlie is black, with two black dads.

This solid addition to the series should please fans and newcomers alike. (Graphic fantasy. 8-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-54055-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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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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