A vibrant celebration of art’s power to console and heal.

PENCILVANIA

Zora, 12, shares her mother’s artistic gifts, but when grief and guilt lead her to destroy years of drawings, the results are astonishing.

Voom is Zora and her mom’s word for the artistic impulse that bubbles up inside. After disclosing her leukemia diagnosis to Zora and her sister, Frankie, Mom promised the girls she’d beat it. Ten months later, their far sicker mom is hospitalized in Pittsburgh, where the girls share their bus driver grandmother’s basement apartment. Mom continues to be optimistic and avoid acknowledging the possibility of death. Frustrated and needing to hear a realistic prognosis, Zora uses her art to show her mother the truth of how ill she looks. Later that night her mom dies—and Zora’s Voom goes away. When Grandma Wren disappoints Frankie on her seventh birthday, Zora’s guilt-fueled anger erupts. Over Frankie’s protests, Zora scribbles out her drawings until the scribbles fight back, pulling the girls into Pencilvania, a world where each of Zora’s creations lives. Most of her now-animated drawings welcome her—except for one scribbled-out horse who kidnaps Frankie. Guided by a seven-legged horse, the Zoracle (a composite of her early self-portraits), and other charming creations, Zora sets out to rescue Frankie and rediscover the wellspring of creativity that forms her mother’s legacy. Presumed White, the humans are well rounded and believable. Pencilvania’s inhabitants, conceived with humorous, metafictional whimsy, are enlivened with copious, inventive illustrations.

A vibrant celebration of art’s power to console and heal. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72821-590-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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