Pitched for chortles, not chills.

ROWLEY JEFFERSON’S AWESOME FRIENDLY SPOOKY STORIES

From the Awesome Friendly kid series

Fourteen original tales featuring ghosts, mummies, and other staples of beneath-the-bedsheets terror.

Actually, the scariest thing here is the cautionary preface, which warns away the easily frightened with enticing promises of “skeletons and zombies and human heads.” The stories deliver all of these and more, but invariably in a vein more comical than chilling—Anders, a disembodied head, matches up in school with Gunther, a headless body, to go after attractive classmate Prudence; an airport scanner turns everyone into skeletons (fun for a while, if boring at Halloween); a town survives the zombie apocalypse by creating “brains” made of tofu. In other highlights, two mummies duke it out in court after one trademarks “The Mummy” as a brand, and to win a science fair, young Victor literally makes a friend after visiting the cemetery behind his house. Rowley, credulous as ever, relates in the “100 percent TRUE” capper how his friend Greg Heffley became possessed by a demon after watching a horror movie on a sleepover and was only restored to himself by an application of toilet (in lieu of holy) water. Along with droll twists aplenty (Prudence ultimately goes off with Anders, leaving Gunther to grow up and become the Headless Horseman), Kinney tucks in one or more outline drawings on every page featuring racially indeterminate but White-presenting figures expressing, usually, exaggerated joy or dismay.

Pitched for chortles, not chills. (Short stories. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5697-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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Classic middle school themes come alive, but they fail to really go anywhere

INVISIBLE EMMIE

One bad day in seventh grade can feel like a lifetime. However, even end-of-the-world–level heartache can have surprising and comic consequences.

Emmie’s story is part of the growing subgenre that hybridizes the middle-grade and graphic novel. With doodle-illustrated prose chapters depicting Emmie’s world and entire comics-style sections depicting the popular Kate, Libenson takes readers inside the halls of middle school with the same nod to weirdness and eye-rolling angst as such format standards as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries. Emmie is a painfully shy girl who is forced to see and be seen one fateful day when a playful game with best friend Brianna turns into a nightmare. Libenson uses two different illustration styles to distinguish between Emmie, the soft-spoken wallflower, and Kate, the outgoing girl of fabulousness. An artist using her doodles to illustrate the seventh-grade world, Emmie sees herself as someone with no voice, while the enigmatic, charismatic Kate is full of confidence and determined to push Emmie out of her comfort zone. Though readers may be puzzled by the device initially, Libenson’s rationale for the dual portrayals becomes clear in the end. However, the repetition of Emmie’s description as quiet, shy, and disenfranchised becomes as grating as a nasal whine. Both Emmie and Kate appear to be white, but school scenes reveal multiethnic classmates.

Classic middle school themes come alive, but they fail to really go anywhere . (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-248494-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

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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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