A lighthearted coming-of-age story.

HELLO, BETTY!

From the Riverdale Diaries series , Vol. 1

New life is breathed into old characters.

Betty and Val have been best friends since Val moved into the neighborhood years ago. They’ve grown up doing everything together, including creating the epic fantasy world of Sparklespacelandia! But the new real world of middle school threatens to be the end of both Sparklespacelandia and their friendship. Betty had expected that she and Val would take the library science elective together, so she’s puzzled when Val says she needs to follow her passion and take music as her elective, leaving them with no classes together. Now Betty is stuck in drama with the rest of her friends who didn’t get their first choices. Miserable, Betty wants nothing more than to keep the spark of Sparklespacelandia alive even if it’s not what she expected. Betty will need to learn how to listen to her friends and come to understand that it’s OK to let people be creative in their own ways. If she does, maybe Betty and Val’s friendship can survive. Realistic illustrations are reminiscent of the older Archie comics but with softer lines and preteen shapes giving them a younger appearance. Backgrounds are sparsely drawn, allowing young readers to focus on the characters’ faces and interactions. This straightforward, fun story lightly teaches readers to navigate changing friendships and the importance of trying new things even if it means doing it alone. Betty presents white, Val is cued as black, and the supporting cast of characters is diverse.

A lighthearted coming-of-age story. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1055-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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