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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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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THE FIRST CAT IN SPACE ATE PIZZA

Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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