A muddled and meandering series opener; perhaps things will coalesce in Book 2.

THE PEDDLER'S ROAD

From the The Secrets of the Pied Piper series , Vol. 1

While accompanying their father on his research trip to Hamelin, Germany, 13-year-old Max and her 10-year-old brother, Carter, find that the Pied Piper is not just a fairy tale, but a very real and present danger.

Max is bitter toward her father for dragging them away from their home in New York City to research obscure fairy tales. Carter is the opposite. Refusing to be coddled because of his braced leg or taken in by his sister’s teenage angst, Carter approaches their trip as an adventure. But when a mysterious, pipe-wielding “pest control professional” arrives and lures them through a mirror and into a land called the Summer Isle, where nothing ever ages or dies, it will take both Max’s stubbornness and Carter’s optimism to survive and make it home again. J.M. Barrie, the Brothers Grimm, and Lewis Carroll all inform this modern twist on a familiar fairy tale. Unfortunately the intriguing premise is much like the Peddler’s Road that the siblings must follow: winding and confusing. Monsters, magic, and mystery await readers willing to stick to the path, but the obstacles of a confusing plot might prove too much for any but the most determined traveler.

A muddled and meandering series opener; perhaps things will coalesce in Book 2. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75522-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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