An intriguing introduction.

WHISTLE

A NEW GOTHAM CITY HERO

A Jewish social activist who loves dogs: Meet DC’s newest superhero.

Origin story 101: a difficult backstory (Willow’s mother has cancer and they can’t afford treatment); the onset of powers (a Killer Croc attack somehow makes Willow able to communicate with the stray dog she’s befriended); the moral quandary (Willow’s financial savior is her mother’s estranged friend E. Nigma, better known to DC fans as the Riddler); and finally, the decision to take on a secret identity (the titular Whistle). The script offers some exciting changes to the formula: Willow Zimmerman is explicitly Jewish, while (new to DC lore) neighborhood Down River has a multiethnic, Lower East Side feel—and teenage Willow is emphatically not a sidekick. The dialogue lacks subtlety but moves the story along, although the overreliance on expository captions highlights the fact that the versatile Lockhart hasn’t previously worked in comics. The moody illustrations pair easy-to-follow large panels with occasional full-page spreads. Warm orange fills Willow’s scenes and conveys her warmth and fire for justice; when the action moves to E. Nigma and Pammie Isley (another Gotham villain), the cool white and greens predominate, fitting the calculated machinations happening off-page. As befits an origin story, the superhero/vigilante element is relegated to the back half. The villains read as White; the background cast reflects the diversity of New York City.

An intriguing introduction. (Graphic adventure. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4012-9322-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Sweet, if unremarkable.

BRIARHEART

A gentle “Sleeping Beauty”–inspired tale of teens training to defend a baby princess.

Fifteen-year-old Miri, beloved stepdaughter of the king, is freshly in love—with her baby sister. As the novel opens, Aurora’s christening looms, and any Disney fan will know what’s coming. However, this is Miri’s story, and pages of first-person description and exposition come before those events. Tirendell, like all kingdoms, has Light and Dark Fae. Dark Fae feed off human misery and sadness, but their desire to cause harm for self-benefit is tempered by the Rules. The Rules state that they can only act against humans under certain conditions, one being that those who have crossed them, for example, by failing to invite them to a royal christening, are fair game. Miri steps up instinctively at the moment of crisis and both deflects the curse and destroys the Dark Fae, which leads to the bulk of the novel: an extended and detailed day-to-day journey with Miri and her five largely indistinguishable new friends as they train in combat and magic to protect Aurora from future threats. With limited action and a minimal plot, this story lacks wide appeal but is notable for the portrait of deep familial love and respect, while the brief, episodic adventures (including talking animals) offer small pleasures. All characters are implied to be White.

Sweet, if unremarkable. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5745-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales.

COLD HEARTED

A TALE OF THE WICKED STEPMOTHER

From the Villains series

How did Cinderella’s stepmother come to be so wicked?

She may have been self-focused, but at least she wasn’t always so cruel. Lady Tremaine, mother of two spoiled daughters, is a lonely widow hoping for a bit of happiness. Unfortunately, when Sir Richard appears at her friend’s house party, she’s swept off her feet and fails to heed the frantic warnings of her dedicated, elderly lady’s maid. Had she ever bothered to read the book of fairy tales her late husband purchased years before, she might have recognized the perils of assuming the role of stepmother. Entranced by Sir Richard, she agrees to a hasty marriage and a move to the Many Kingdoms, where he reverts to his true, domineering nature and she and her daughters become virtual prisoners in his home. Although the Odd Sisters—clever, manipulative witches—try to intervene on her behalf, it seems her fate is already written; she becomes as cruel and demented as the story described. However, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and her sister, Nanny, have plans to rescue Lady Tremaine’s daughters as they develop much-needed, rehabilitative insights into the family’s dynamics. Mostly told from the Lady’s shallow, self-centered perspective, this is an entertaining retelling of the Disney “Cinderella” story from a different viewpoint, with references to the rest of the series woven throughout. Characters follow a White default.

For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-02528-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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