A rare treat, backward and forward.

OTTO

A PALINDRAMA

The panjandrum of palindromes crafts and collects some 200 examples to drive a picaresque graphic tale that (of course!) ends where it began.

Sure, the action is visually driven and most of the panels wordless—but from the initial “Mmm” to the concluding “Peep!” young Otto’s peregrinations are positively laced with well-placed palindromic dialogue, sound effects, signs, billboards, and labels. Ripples in a bowl of soup become a portal that lands the White lad on a beach. After various surreal sights (“Emus sail, I assume?”), he hitches a ride into a city crowded with passersby from “Regan Amy Trapp, party manager” to “Neil, a li’l alien,” then on to stores, a cemetery, and other stops before at last fetching up in his own urban backyard. Though he’s not above a “li’l” fudging (“Wanna potato pan? Naw”), Agee never breaks away from his premise, and he matches lines and locales with terrific ingenuity (at an art museum: “Even I’d order a red Rodin, Eve!” but “Gustav Klimt milk vats? Ug!”; a Robert Indiana–esque POOP sculpture is in the background). Astonishingly, somehow he keeps the plotline (more or less) coherent. Having drawn on the constructions of other palindromists to supplement his own, he readily shares credit in a closing note. The human figures in his palely tinted cartoons are mostly White, but some few have pale olive skin. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A rare treat, backward and forward. (Graphic fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4162-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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