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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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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A coming-of-age tale that is both comforting and wonderfully peculiar.

SÉANCE TEA PARTY

As a girl struggles to navigate adolescence, she finds support from an unlikely source.

In this graphic novel, 12-year-old Lora Xi finds herself increasingly isolated. While her best friend and her classmates seem obsessed with parties, boys, and texting, her interests have remained fixed on witches, ghosts, and nostalgic activities of childhood. While throwing herself a séance tea party in the attic, she discovers a ghost, a girl about her age, named Alexa. The two become fast friends, with Alexa gently prodding Lora to reach out to peers and slowly engage in more social events. The energetic, flowing graphics embellished with colorful details reveal complex narratives for both characters. With the help of some old friends, Alexa eventually discovers more about her long-forgotten past, having lived in the same town 50 years prior. Lora finds the courage to participate in more social events while staying authentic. But the two friends gradually find their goals diverging, which leads to an emotional climax. While this is Yee’s middle-grade debut, she is a veteran of comic books, and it shows. She artfully balances complex character arcs and suspense while bringing a touch of fantasy and wonder without overcrowding the plot. Lora is of Chinese descent, and Alexa is White; Lora’s middle-class North American community is vibrantly diverse.

A coming-of-age tale that is both comforting and wonderfully peculiar. (author's note) (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12532-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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