A gentle, mind-expanding, and thoroughly lovely experience.

TRYING

A young visitor to a sculptor’s studio is amazed and impressed as he views the artist at work, asking, “How do you do that?”

The visitor, an older elementary-age kid or maybe a young teen, acknowledges wishing to create something like the art on view, but self-doubt at ever being able to produce such beauty prevents the kid from beginning. What follows is an ongoing, almost Socratic discussion between the visitor and the sculptor. The sculptor exhorts the visitor to try, to make an attempt, and encourages, advises, and pushes his interlocutor to learn from failures and disappointments. As the sculptor does so, he is not loath to shares his own vulnerabilities and haunting thoughts of his mortality. Gradually the visitor becomes a protégé, trying and trying again. As in previous works such as What Do You Do With a Problem? (illustrated by Mae Besom, 2016), Yamada deals with both philosophical and practical questions, maintaining a grounded, direct tone without ever becoming preachy or too highly esoteric. The aspiring artist narrates in the first person from a distance of several years, treasuring the memory of the sculptor’s words, only to be interrupted at the end of the book by a new voice from a new visitor, echoing that first question. Hurst’s black, gray, and white drawings are heavily shaded, imparting a mysterious and ethereal quality. There are fleeting bits of color in the form of an orange studio cat and the sculptor’s green-tinged failures. The characters present White. Young readers and their grown-ups will find much to absorb and discuss.

A gentle, mind-expanding, and thoroughly lovely experience. (Picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-970147-28-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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What a wag.

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DOG MAN

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 1

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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