Unconvincing text distracts from utterly enchanting illustration.

WHEN YOU LOOK UP

A lonely child encounters a new diversion in a new home.

The story begins with Lorenzo, a little boy with blue, gogglelike glasses and pink skin, preparing to move to a new house with his mother. In the car, a classic “when I was your age…” from Mom sets the tone in an unsuccessful attempt to pull him from his cellphone to admire the scenery from the car window or the spacious property of their new house. The structure is strange and empty of all but unfamiliar smells and a peculiar notebook hidden in an antique writing desk. Upon Lorenzo’s opening it, the pages change from a lush, cool-toned palette to vibrant sunflower-yellow, providing a background for candy-colored papercut illustrations depicting fantastical stories of cats riding bicycles, tiny teal quail building mysterious machines, and more. The stories reflect Lorenzo’s surroundings with the distorted logic of a dream, leading him to search for and eventually uncover the truth behind them—his discoveries cleverly depicted with bright cut paper laid over the painterly gouache “real world.” Alas, due to unnecessary moralization and a string of uniformly white human characters broken only by a singular, uncomfortably depicted black man, it fails to positively reflect the magic of the world beyond its pages. In the simultaneously publishing original Spanish text, readers will enjoy much more amusing use of onomatopoeia and side commentary from background characters.

Unconvincing text distracts from utterly enchanting illustration. (Graphic novel. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59270-293-0

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low.

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DOG MAN AND CAT KID

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 4

Recasting Dog Man and his feline ward, Li’l Petey, as costumed superheroes, Pilkey looks East of Eden in this follow-up to Tale of Two Kitties (2017).

The Steinbeck novel’s Cain/Abel motif gets some play here, as Petey, “world’s evilest cat” and cloned Li’l Petey’s original, tries assiduously to tempt his angelic counterpart over to the dark side only to be met, ultimately at least, by Li’l Petey’s “Thou mayest.” (There are also occasional direct quotes from the novel.) But inner struggles between good and evil assume distinctly subordinate roles to riotous outer ones, as Petey repurposes robots built for a movie about the exploits of Dog Man—“the thinking man’s Rin Tin Tin”—while leading a general rush to the studio’s costume department for appropriate good guy/bad guy outfits in preparation for the climactic battle. During said battle and along the way Pilkey tucks in multiple Flip-O-Rama inserts as well as general gags. He lists no fewer than nine ways to ask “who cut the cheese?” and includes both punny chapter titles (“The Bark Knight Rises”) and nods to Hamilton and Mary Poppins. The cartoon art, neatly and brightly colored by Garibaldi, is both as easy to read as the snappy dialogue and properly endowed with outsized sound effects, figures displaying a range of skin colors, and glimpses of underwear (even on robots).

More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93518-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

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What a wag.

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DOG MAN

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 1

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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