Cool coding and forward plot motion keep this series humming.

ROBOTS & REPEATS

From the Secret Coders series , Vol. 4

The coding heroes are in a vulnerable position after Secrets & Sequences (2017).

After an entertaining Ifelse puzzle, the multicultural team of Eni (a black boy), Hopper (a biracial Asian/white girl), and Josh (a pale boy) discover the Turtle of Light, a much more powerful (and much less literal) version than the cute turtle robots from earlier books. The other-dimensional Professor Bee, now noseless, teaches them how to use the Turtle of Light to create and dismiss constructs of “virtually immovable and unbreakable” solidified light, and they’re promptly tested when attacked by Cuddles, the cat robot. After the danger has passed, Bee shows them how they can use repeats more efficiently and nest code. But this tech victory is juxtaposed with social and family conflicts: Eni’s parents want him to stay away from Hopper, Hopper’s mother wants to pull Hopper out of Stately Academy, and Josh is becoming girl-crazy. Meanwhile, the villainous, white Dr. One-Zero abruptly institutes a new chemistry class that will make more of his weaponized green pop. Yang’s integration of coding concepts into an actual mystery plot even as he continues to deepen character development in under 100 graphic pages looks effortless; Holmes’ panels continue to visualize those concepts inventively.

Cool coding and forward plot motion keep this series humming. (Graphic science fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-605-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Like the pathfinders, readers will be crying, “Plus Ultra!” and hoping for the next adventure.

THE MYSTERY OF THE MOON TOWER

From the Pathfinders Society series , Vol. 1

Five intrepid, young pathfinders explore the environmentally volatile Windrose Valley in search of a fabled treasure.

Deep in Windrose Valley awaits an adventurous summer at Camp Pathfinder, founded by a renowned, eccentric pioneer named Henry Merriweather. Merriweather’s fixation on finding the legendary Windrose treasure serves as a grand catalyst for the campers’ quest. The eclectic group of campers—newcomer Kyle, history buff Beth, zany magician-in-training Harry, cheerleader/math queen Vic, and tinkerer Nate—sets off, running all over town to find Merriweather’s baroque tile markers. Eventually, their efforts lead them to the Merriweather Estate, where the campers slowly uncover the mystery behind the Moon Tower catastrophe. Shortly after the bizarre incident, Merriweather disappeared, and the town’s fortunes failed. As the adolescent pathfinders near the trail toward the Moon Tower and inch ever closer to the treasure, they learn more about the mythical Merriweather and his infamous obsession. Sedita, Seraydarian, and Hamaker’s series debut zips along nicely, mixing cryptic teases with affable characters. Though the quieter moments rarely make much of an impact, the authors’ exposition-heavy worldbuilding incites enthusiasm for the campers’ endeavor. The hints of magic in the snappy illustrations add another layer of allure. Featuring flashes of time slips and a racially diverse cast, this graphic novel hits all the right spots for the inevitable sequel.

Like the pathfinders, readers will be crying, “Plus Ultra!” and hoping for the next adventure. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-425-29186-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Problem-solving through perseverance and friendship is the real win in this deeply smart and inspiring story.

SWIM TEAM

Leaving Brooklyn behind, Black math-whiz and puzzle lover Bree starts a new life in Florida, where she’ll be tossed into the deep end in more ways than one. Keeping her head above water may be the trickiest puzzle yet.

While her dad is busy working and training in IT, Bree struggles at first to settle into Enith Brigitha Middle School, largely due to the school’s preoccupation with swimming—from the accomplishments of its namesake, a Black Olympian from Curaçao, to its near victory at the state swimming championships. But Bree can’t swim. To illustrate her anxiety around this fact, the graphic novel’s bright colors give way to gray thought bubbles with thick, darkened outlines expressing Bree’s deepest fears and doubts. This poignant visual crowds some panels just as anxious feelings can crowd the thoughts of otherwise star students like Bree. Ultimately, learning to swim turns out to be easy enough with the help of a kind older neighbor—a Black woman with a competitive swimming past of her own as well as a rich and bittersweet understanding of Black Americans’ relationship with swimming—who explains to Bree how racist obstacles of the past can become collective anxiety in the present. To her surprise, Bree, with her newfound water skills, eventually finds herself on the school’s swim team, navigating competition, her anxiety, and new, meaningful relationships.

Problem-solving through perseverance and friendship is the real win in this deeply smart and inspiring story. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-305677-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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