Both a hilarious spoof of a noir novel and a clever comment on modern punctuation misuse

THE UPPER CASE

TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY

Lazar and MacDonald continue the relentless puns and fun with letters of 7 Ate 9 (2017), framed, like its predecessor, in the style of a mid-20th-century detective novel.

Private I, an actual letter I with little arms and legs, is dozing in his office when Question Mark and a rather shifty-looking Exclamation rush in to inform him that all the uppercase letters are missing, a surprising event in Capital City (geddit?!). No half-wit, I realizes that he is the “last capital letter standing” and resolves to take on the case. Chaos has erupted in the city, and random lowercase letters and punctuation run riot. I discovers that his favorite waitress, B has not shown up for work in the Café Uno—now known as “afé no” due to the dearth of uppercase letters. I takes the train out to Cursive Loop and finds the missing capitals all stuck up on a movie theater’s marquee, placed there by Exclamation, who, according to B, “promised to put us all in the movies.” Exclamation’s explanation is a subtle dig at overuse of this symbol: As he says, “Capital letters are always calling me…YES, HA, OMG!” Exclamation is arrested by the Grammar Police and put away for a “short sentence.” MacDonald’s illustrations, with classic typesets and hints of the Manhattan skyline, perfectly capture the retro mood and comedy of the concept.

Both a hilarious spoof of a noir novel and a clever comment on modern punctuation misuse . (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02765-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent.

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THEY ALL SAW A CAT

Wouldn’t the same housecat look very different to a dog and a mouse, a bee and a flea, a fox, a goldfish, or a skunk?

The differences are certainly vast in Wenzel’s often melodramatic scenes. Benign and strokable beneath the hand of a light-skinned child (visible only from the waist down), the brindled cat is transformed to an ugly, skinny slinker in a suspicious dog’s view. In a fox’s eyes it looks like delectably chubby prey but looms, a terrifying monster, over a cowering mouse. It seems a field of colored dots to a bee; jagged vibrations to an earthworm; a hairy thicket to a flea. “Yes,” runs the terse commentary’s refrain, “they all saw the cat.” Words in italics and in capital letters in nearly every line give said commentary a deliberate cadence and pacing: “The cat walked through the world, / with its whiskers, ears, and paws… // and the fish saw A CAT.” Along with inviting more reflective viewers to ruminate about perception and subjectivity, the cat’s perambulations offer elemental visual delights in the art’s extreme and sudden shifts in color, texture, and mood from one page or page turn to the next.

A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5013-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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