By the end of the book, Greg may have taken a microscopic step or two toward becoming a decent human being, but as usual,...

HARD LUCK

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 8

In this eighth outing for Wimpy Kid Greg Heffley, he copes with the aftereffects of having unwittingly matched up best friend Rowley with Abigail in his previous outing (The Third Wheel, 2012).

Readers who have experienced the ebbs and flows of middle school friendships might be inclined to feel sorry for Greg, except that all his reasons for his new unhappiness are so characteristically selfish. With Rowley gaga over Abigail, Greg now has to walk to school alone, losing his dog-poop scout and pack horse, for instance. Readers will have to squint between the lines for evidence of real emotion. As always, Kinney gets in a dig or two at the idiocies of modern education, snarking at ball-game bans in the name of safety and lame efforts to reduce bullying. Also as always, the plot meanders, taking Greg and readers from the middle school ecosystem to Easter at Gramma’s for a look at extended-family anthropology before tackling science-fair stress. Greg’s reliance on a Magic 8 Ball for all decision-making is good for some yuks, as is his discovery of a secret shelf of parenting books in the back of his mom’s closet: Tellingly, amid such titles as Making Them Love Reading, Taming Your Defiant Child and Parenting Picky Eaters is Raising Decent Human Beings.

By the end of the book, Greg may have taken a microscopic step or two toward becoming a decent human being, but as usual, it’s mostly despite his best efforts . (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1132-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2014

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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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