A standing ovation for undead environmentalist theater.

ZOMBIE, OR NOT TO BE

There’s something rotting in Deadmark, and it’s not the zombies—it’s a science-denial conspiracy!

The humans of Ignorway destroyed the environment so badly that viruses ran rampant. One was a zombie virus, and eventually, the zombies abandoned the ruined land to create Deadmark, their rational, science-positive democracy. In this Hamlet-meets-zombies story, when Edda’s mother, the elected Lead Scientist, mysteriously goes missing, Agonista, Edda’s environmental lawbreaking businesswoman aunt, is selected to replace her. Greed-driven Agonista immediately starts dismantling sustainable energy sources in favor of oil. With the help of allies—vampire bat Bram, the enchanted floating skull Rick (of the Glob Theater)—Edda discovers her mother’s dark, humanized fate. The heroes quickly stage a production of the scheme and watch for Agonista’s guilty reactions. Adventurous twists and turns—exile, a naval battle, Zombies for the Ethical Treatment of Humans and their development of cruelty-free, lab-grown FeignBrain (“Make your next meal a no-brainer!”)—go alongside puns and Shakespearian winks. The horror elements are so campy and over-the-top that, despite the brain-eating monsters, it’s funny instead of scary. The resulting cartoonishness allows the story to get away with blunt moralizing without breaking the comedic tone, with the heavy-handedness played as part of the joke without undermining genuine messages. The zombies and Bram are shades of green; humans are racially ambiguous.

A standing ovation for undead environmentalist theater. (Humor/Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948931-13-7

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Hazy Dell Press

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

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THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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