An unusually promising series opener for proto-Goosebumps fans.

RISE OF THE BALLOON GOONS

From the Notebook of Doom series , Vol. 1

A discarded notebook with information on disquieting creatures like the Rhinoceraptor and the Forkupine isn’t the only surprise waiting in Stermont for nerdy Alexander Bopp and his oblivious dad.

As if the small town’s name, three graveyards and abandoned glue factory aren’t eerie enough, Alexander is assaulted on his first day by several of the tall, fluttering “balloon guys” commonly used by stores as attention-getters. Moreover, his new class turns out to be temporarily relocated to the local hospital’s morgue, his new teacher loudly nicknames him “Salamander Snott,” and he becomes an instant target for aptly named classmate Rip Bonkowski. The next day, things get worse. Cranking up the horrorlarity with googly eyed cartoon figures and sight gags on nearly every page, Cummings pitches his nervous but resourceful newcomer into a climactic, all-out battle with an entire army of aggressive, air-stealing bendy balloons. Happily, with help from Rip and other unlikely allies, Alexander ultimately saves Stermont from a pandemic of permanently flattened tires, pool toys and whoopee cushions.

An unusually promising series opener for proto-Goosebumps fans. (Light horror. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-493222-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock”...

THE SINGING ROCK & OTHER BRAND-NEW FAIRY TALES

The theme of persistence (for better or worse) links four tales of magic, trickery, and near disasters.

Lachenmeyer freely borrows familiar folkloric elements, subjecting them to mildly comical twists. In the nearly wordless “Hip Hop Wish,” a frog inadvertently rubs a magic lamp and finds itself saddled with an importunate genie eager to shower it with inappropriate goods and riches. In the title tale, an increasingly annoyed music-hating witch transforms a persistent minstrel into a still-warbling cow, horse, sheep, goat, pig, duck, and rock in succession—then is horrified to catch herself humming a tune. Athesius the sorcerer outwits Warthius, a rival trying to steal his spells via a parrot, by casting silly ones in Ig-pay Atin-lay in the third episode, and in the finale, a painter’s repeated efforts to create a flattering portrait of an ogre king nearly get him thrown into a dungeon…until he suddenly understands what an ogre’s idea of “flattering” might be. The narratives, dialogue, and sound effects leave plenty of elbow room in Blocker’s big, brightly colored panels for the expressive animal and human(ish) figures—most of the latter being light skinned except for the golden genie, the blue ogre, and several people of color in the “Sorcerer’s New Pet.”

Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock” music. (Graphic short stories. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59643-750-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Haphazard stabs at describing at least parts of the creative process—more illuminating perhaps for the artist’s students...

I HAVE AN IDEA!

A gifted finder of ideas explains how to track the tricky, elusive things down.

Readers should be warned to hold on to their hats, because although it’s presented as one long, breathless mix of hand-lettered expostulations and dashed-off jabs, squiggles, and swipes of blue, red, and yellow paint, Tullet’s monologue veers about like an unknotted balloon. Dispensing with a title page, he opens abruptly by marveling at the “OH!” moment when an idea hits, then rhetorically asking what an idea might be. He goes on to describe hunting for one as an arduous, even “boring” task. Observing that happening upon an idea is “a little like finding a seed” that grows, he suddenly switches his conceit to exclaim that ideas will come in a “messy and bubbly” swarm—but must be sifted to find the “good” ones, which “always” contain “a seed of madness.” Rather than pausing to unpack that vague if fine-sounding phrase, he rushes on to claim (with one minor typo) confusingly that “those seeds” (which ones?) are hidden everywhere but can be found, cultivated, absorbed in the mind, and ultimately combined…to make an idea. (Weren’t we there already?) Finally, following the affirmation that the effort is worthwhile, whether “just for the fun of it” or “to change the world,” he closes with the inspirational assurance that those who seek will find. Well, that part at least is clear enough.

Haphazard stabs at describing at least parts of the creative process—more illuminating perhaps for the artist’s students than the rest of his audience. (Picture book. 8-10, adult)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7858-5

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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