A dreamlike and existential rumination.

BUG BOYS 2

OUTSIDE AND BEYOND

From the Bug Boys series , Vol. 2

Bug BFFs marvel over natural wonders in their bucolic microcosm.

In this graphic-novel sequel to Bug Boys (2020), beetle best friends Stag-B and Rhino-B have more quiet adventures told in tiny vignettes. The duo ventures out of their quiet home, Bug Village, seeing new surroundings with wide-eyed awe and contemplating their roles within these settings. In “The Ultimate S’mores,” the pair go on a camping trip, and Stag-B feels inferior when compared to Rhino-B’s outdoorsy know-how until they decide to talk about their feelings, which helps Stag-B realize his own valuable strengths. In “The Pearl Dragon’s Castle,” the bugs explore a mysterious tower that seems to change uncannily with every step they take. They encounter a strange lavender dragon who claims to need help, leading them on a journey from frustration to collaboration. In the final tale, “Wave’s World,” they help a bat find a lost magical earring; riding on its back and gazing at their village from aloft, they admire the beauty of the night. Knetzger’s tiny tales are rambling and often surreal, thoughtfully examining both the beautiful complexity of nature and one’s place therein. With a muted, earth-toned palette, her illustrations firmly anchor readers in this intricately whimsical world. Perhaps not a splashy crowd pleaser, this sophomore effort may fare best when put in the hands of those seeking that which is both philosophical and introspective.

A dreamlike and existential rumination. (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984896-78-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House Graphic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.

THEY THREW US AWAY

From the Teddies Saga series , Vol. 1

The journey to find a child becomes an existential quest for an abandoned teddy bear.

Buddy is not just any stuffed bear, but a blue Furrington Teddy with a Real Silk Heart. So why did he wake up in a landfill with other Furringtons of varying hues? A more pressing matter, however, is escaping Trashland and its murderous gulls and bulldozers. Yearning to connect with a child and achieve a state of peaceful Forever Sleep, Buddy and his new friends of differing temperaments and gifts set out on a harrowing journey through the city to find children who will want them. As they encounter other Furringtons in disarray, this opener in The Teddies Saga series becomes a mystery about why these teddies are being harmed in the first place. While the visceral narrative follows the teddy troupe’s adventurous challenges and survival, its focus is on Buddy’s inner struggles as he ponders identity, leadership, and other existential dilemmas. Kraus doesn’t shy away from anger, fear, death, and other dark subjects; instead they become opportunities for growth in difficult environments. Cai’s intense, slightly nightmarish grayscale illustrations add immeasurably to the text. Reminiscent of Watership Down in theme and structure, the novel’s intermittent teddy creation stories also become parables of a moral code and extend the epic story arc. A cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the next installment.

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22440-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Perfect for eager readers of animal adventures.

CREATURES OF THE FLOOD

From the Bamboo Kingdom series , Vol. 1

The first in a new series by the pseudonymous authorial collaboration, this one focusing on pandas.

In the midst of a devastating flood, a giant panda reaches the security of a cave where she can safely birth her cubs. In an initially confusing timeline, the tale then takes up much later with Leaf, who is maturing among a group of pandas in a barren countryside. On the other side of an uncrossable river, Rain, another intrepid panda, is growing up in the Southern Forest, where more previously solitary pandas have gathered. When Sunset Deepwood, the prophesying Dragon Speaker, returns—seemingly from the dead—Rain is immediately suspicious of his behavior, especially concerning his secret meetings with antagonistic monkeys. The storyline switches between these two females and Ghost, a clumsy all-white male who has grown up with his presumed littermates under the tender care of their snow leopard mother, Winter. Although he knows he differs from the other cubs in significant ways, Ghost has no idea he’s actually a panda. After a large earthquake, Leaf comes under the care of Shadowhunter, a tiger who’s sworn to reunite triplet pandas who are destined together to become the next Dragon Speakers, setting up another entry in the series. The animals are well depicted, with clear personalities, and the challenges they face are daunting, nicely sustaining the suspense. Illustrations not seen.

Perfect for eager readers of animal adventures. (map) (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-302192-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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