ERIK VS. EVERYTHING

The Sheepflattener clan fearlessly follow ancestral Viking traditions set down in the Lore, except for Erik, 9, whose default response to challenges and invitations is to invoke his life philosophy, “AVOID STUFF.”

Sent to help babysit his triplet cousins in Minnesota, Erik’s relieved to escape piano lessons with Mrs. Loathcraft but nervous when the fiercer of his two older sisters, ax-wielding Brunhilde, decides to accompany him. Like his parents, the hearty, outdoors-fancying Minnesota Vikings prove deaf to Erik’s fears. Forced to fish with his bare hands, he’s mauled by a large pike; then Mr. Nubbins, the family pet, activates Erik’s squirrel phobia. Erik’s meltdowns inspire Brunhilde to help him tackle his fears head-on. Determining their scope, she studies strategies to conquer them, like exposure therapy, and implements breathing exercises, supplementing the Lore’s wisdom with the library’s The Big Book of Fear and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Seeking a comprehensive picture of Erik’s dizzying array of phobias, Brunhilde constructs an ingenious diorama, using her mapmaking skills and Lego bricks. As the project progresses, Erik finds himself drawn into a multiage biking club soon to race Bonebreaker Hill. Unable to empathize with Erik’s anxieties, Brunhilde recognizes they must be vanquished; conquering is a concept the Scandinavian-ancestry–worshipping, rune-tattooed Sheepflatteners embrace. Fond of aggressive sports and a turnip-heavy diet, short on nuance, long on family loyalty, they’re portrayed with sly, affectionate humor. Erik’s anxieties are presented lightly but sensitively.

A quirky delight. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-12671-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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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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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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