DEATH & SPARKLES

From the Death & Sparkles series , Vol. 1

Death and Sparkles are ready to take on the world!

And by world, we mean social media consumption, the temptations of fame, the fickle nature of celebrity, and the connection between consumerism and ecology. But still, that’s a lot! When Sparkles, the last unicorn on Earth, has a fatal accident while promoting a sponsored product, he comes into contact with Death, an otherworldly employee of the claims department who is armed with the “powers of bureaucracy.” (I.e., he kills creatures by touching them, but only if their paperwork is in order.) At the same time, a trio of sentient extraterrestrial lizards are trying to educate humanity about proper citizenship and planetary care. With Sparkles’ death, the trio are lured into being a substitute act by Sparkles’ manager. How will the influencer lifestyle pair with their values of personal responsibility and conservation? And what happens if Sparkles comes back to life? The story juggles a lot, but it manages to deftly keep all the balls in the air and packs several compelling messages into one very funny graphic novel. The memorable digital illustrations in soft pastels evoke watercolors and colored pencil and complement the text with flair. Readers will be enchanted and will ponder for some time the ideas presented here.

Powerful and fun. (Graphic science fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-79720-635-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message.

WILLODEEN

An orphan loner’s small town faces a hard future after it unwittingly disrupts a natural cycle.

Willodeen is lucky that elderly retired thespians Mae and Birdie took her in after the wildfire that killed her parents and brother, not only because they’re a loving couple, but because they let her roam the woods in search of increasingly rare screechers—creatures so vile-tempered and stinky that the village elders of Perchance have put a bounty on them. The elders have other worries, though: The migratory hummingbears that have long nested in the area, drawing tourists to the lucrative annual Autumn Faire, have likewise nearly vanished. Could there be a connection? If there is, Willodeen is just the person to find it—but who would believe her? Applegate’s characters speak in pronouncements about life and nature that sometimes seem to address readers more than other characters, but the winsome illustrations lighten the thematic load. Screechers appear much like comically fierce warthogs and hummingbears, as small teddies with wings. Applegate traces a burgeoning friendship between her traumatized protagonist and Connor, a young artist who turns found materials into small animals so realistic that one actually comes to life. In the end, the townsfolk do listen and pitch in to make amends. Red-haired, gray-eyed Willodeen is cued as White; Connor has brown skin, and other human characters read as White by default.

The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message. (Eco-fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-14740-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action.

THE SILVER ARROW

The best birthday present is a magical train full of talking animals—and a new job.

On Kate’s 11th birthday, she’s surprised by the arrival of rich Uncle Herbert. Uncle Herbert bears a gift: a train. Not a toy train, a 102.36-ton steam engine, with cars that come later. When Kate and her brother, Tom, both white, play in the cab of the Silver Arrow, the train starts up, zooming to a platform packed with animals holding tickets. Thus begins Kate and Tom’s hard work: They learn to conduct the train and feed the fire box, instructed by the Silver Arrow, which speaks via printed paper tape. The Silver Arrow is a glorious playground: The library car is chockablock with books while the candy car is brimful of gobstoppers and gummy bears. But amid the excitement of whistle-blowing and train conducting, Kate and Tom learn quiet messages from their animal friends. Some species, like gray squirrels and starlings, are “invaders.” The too-thin polar bear’s train platform has melted, leaving it almost drowned. Their new calling is more than just feeding the coal box—they need to find a new balance in a damaged world. “Feeling guilty doesn’t help anything,” the mamba tells them. Humans have survived so effectively they’ve taken over the world; now, he says, “you just have to take care of it.” (Illustrations not seen.)

Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53953-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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