Buckle your seatbelts: This is one goofy ride.



From the Pirate Penguin vs. Ninja Chicken series , Vol. 3

A nutty ninja chicken and a hapless pirate penguin have more screwball adventures.

This third graphic installment in the ongoing series opens with Pirate Penguin sharing his outrageously zany origin story, immediately setting the sugar-high tone that continues throughout. In a series of loosely strung vignettes—some only a few panels and most not more than a few pages—the duo has many oddly madcap adventures, including an encounter with their friend Wizard Wombat, Pirate Penguin’s transformation into a weregoose that leads to a beauty parlor trip, a sudden visit from pal Astronaut Armadillo, and “a barbecue that could have gone better.” The beauty of this construction is that it makes the book an excellent choice to read either episodically or nonlinearly. Most of the duo’s exploits are rampantly nonsensical and go unresolved, Friesen apparently opting to prioritize silliness over plot and character development; that said, readers who revel in such imaginative wackiness should be over the moon. Straying from a conventional layout, the vibrant full-color panels often burst from their borders, utilizing unique sizing and shape; many have solid, unembellished backgrounds, focusing readers solely on the characters, who bounce around their panels with an infectious, manic glee. In a concluding Q&A, Friesen refers to his titular characters using they pronouns.

Buckle your seatbelts: This is one goofy ride. (Graphic fiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-60309-497-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


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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A witty addition to the long-running series.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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