Sweet and fierce, this is a must-have.

SNAPDRAGON

Lumberjanes comic books collaborator Leyh expertly blends fantasy and realism in her energetic debut solo middle-grade graphic novel.

“Our town has a witch. She fed her eye to the devil. She eats roadkill and casts spells with the bones.” Snapdragon knows the rumors, but after the “roadkill witch” rescues Snap’s beloved dog and agrees to foster abandoned possum babies, Snap starts to think all may not be as it seems. And it’s true: The town’s “witch” is actually Crocs-wearing, white-haired, one-eyed Jacks. Gruff but nurturing, Jacks takes Snap under her wing, teaching Snap her work of using bones from roadkill to build and sell anatomically correct skeletal systems. But it also turns out that Jacks is a witch, using magic to release the souls of roadkill back into nature, and Snap is desperate to find out if she can also channel magic. Leyh’s characters are fully realized, from Snap’s simultaneously overflowing skepticism and enthusiasm to her dynamic with her single working-while-in-school mom, from Jacks’ quiet history with Snap’s grandma to Snap’s new best friend’s transition to wearing skirts, loving nail polish, and being called Lulu. Their world isn’t perfect: Snap and Lulu are bullied at school, economic struggles are apparent, and Snap’s mom’s abusive ex-boyfriend shows up more than once (including in a finale that has a twinge of deus ex machina). Jacks is white while Snap, her family, Lulu, and most secondary characters are coded as black—all, refreshingly, presenting with a realistic variety of skin tones and hair colors and textures.

Sweet and fierce, this is a must-have. (Graphic fantasy. 8-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-17112-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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