A lively turn for a lesser-known comic-book hero.

ZATANNA AND THE HOUSE OF SECRETS

The magical DC hero makes her middle-grade graphic-novel debut.

Zatanna and her magician father, a widower, live quiet lives. The white preteen balances friendships and homework like any other typical middle schooler while missing her departed mother. But one night Zatanna sneaks out to a dance and returns to find a pair of blue-skinned strangers standing in her own home, a home that has transformed into the House of Secrets. After one of the home invaders identifies herself as the Witch Queen and disappears with Zatanna’s father, Zatanna searches for him and discovers the true nature of her family’s past. Mystery and magic fill the graphic novel’s frames as Zatanna’s large, expressive eyes soak in the bizarre and fantastic flourishes. Readers with minimal knowledge of Zatanna’s role in DC Comics lore will have no trouble here: The story is easily appreciated by newbies and familiars alike. The bold, unoutlined artwork uses a purple, orange, and blue palette that helps the pictures stand apart from the four-color comic palette used by similar middle-grade DC Comics titles. The plot moves forward at an almost alarming speed, twisting and turning and enticing readers with a page-turning emotional mystery.

A lively turn for a lesser-known comic-book hero. (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4012-9070-2

Page Count: 152

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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This thrilling coming-of-age adventure is both quirky and sincere.

FLY ON THE WALL

Some things you must learn on your own.

In this graphic/prose hybrid, Henry Khoo embarks on a secret mission. Now that he’s 12, the legal age to travel alone, he has plans to fly from his Australian home to Singapore, where his father lives. As he haphazardly navigates his way to his flight, his tangled motivations slowly unfold. Initially it appears he wants to establish his independence, seeking reprieve from the overbearing eyes of older sister Jie, Mama, and wuxia drama–watching Popo. Soon the comedic narration reveals that Henry is confronting myriad issues: his emotionally and geographically distant father; his waning relationship with his best friend; and his need to hide his secret identity as the creator of the Fly on the Wall website. Spawned from Henry’s sense that he’s invisible to all, his online comics illustrate school gossip—and draw the opprobrium of the school administration. As in Lai’s debut, Pie in the Sky (2019), humorous line drawings punctuate the text and reveal Henry’s inner feelings. Flashbacks deftly illuminate Henry’s emotional journey to a wider worldview and eventual ownership of his feelings. Lai has a talent of not preaching to her readers, instead offering the reassurance that no one is alone in experiencing the painful awkwardness and occasionally harsh realities of growing up. Henry and his family are Chinese, and dialogue is occasionally bilingual.

This thrilling coming-of-age adventure is both quirky and sincere. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31411-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing.

SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE

From the Sunny series , Vol. 3

Sunny, in seventh grade, finds her score on the Groovy Meter taking some wild swings as her friends’ interests move in different directions.

In a motif that haunts her throughout, Sunny succumbs to a teen magazine’s personality quiz and sees her tally seesaw radically. Her BF Deb has suddenly switched focus to boys, clothes, and bands such as the Bee Gees (this is 1977)—dismissing trick-or-treating and wearing galoshes on rainy days as “babyish.” Meanwhile, Sunny takes delight in joining nerdy neighbors Lev, Brian, and Arun in regular sessions of Dungeons and Dragons (as a fighter character, so cool). The storytelling is predominantly visual in this episodic outing, with just occasional snatches of dialogue and pithy labels to fill in details or mark the passage of time; frequent reaction shots deftly capture Sunny’s feelings of being pulled this way and that. Tellingly, in the Holms’ panels (colored by Pien), Sunny’s depicted as significantly smaller than Deb, visually underscoring her developmental awkwardness. Deb’s comment that “we’re too old to be playing games like that” leads Sunny to drop out of the D&D circle and even go to the school’s staggeringly dull spring dance. Sunny’s mostly white circle of peers expands and becomes more diverse as she continues to navigate her way through the dark chambers and misty passages of early adolescence. Lev is an Orthodox Jew, Arun is South Asian, and Regina, another female friend, has brown skin.

The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-23314-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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