Kenzie’s Kingdom

Come, one and all, to the grand opening of King’s Castle Luxury Resort! The perfect place for the whole family to experience life in a real historic castle. Kenzie’s Kingdom, written by Shea Fontana with illustrations by Agnes Garbowska, is your ticket to this fantastical place. 

Kenzie King is a klutz. Her parents decided to move their family to Fralandia, a faraway land full of castles and history, to start their own luxury resort where the whole family plays a part in keeping things running. Her brother, Frederick, and sister, Rose, have no issues adapting to their new home; they’re great at everything they do, but things aren’t so easy for Kenzie. She misses California, her best friend Aubrey, and she keeps messing things up around the resort!

Things don’t seem like they’re ever going to look up until Kenzie trips upon some magical glowing flowers and meets Squire Gavin of Oakwardshire. Gavin is like Kenzie; he trips over his own feet and doesn’t fit in where he’s supposed to. Oh, and he’s a time traveling knight-in-training in full armor from 500 years ago who thinks Kenzie is a princess. In order to pass the Knight’s Challenge, Gavin must overcome his fears and prove he’s mastered the skills of knighthood. 

Kenzie and Gavin bond over their shared anxiety. Both are worried they’re letting down the people they care about, always coming up short or causing an issue. Kenzie’s fears are always there, creeping in the background, and when she recalls the feeling of a panic attack, Garbowska’s art accurately portrays that feeling in a way that will be familiar to anyone dealing with their own anxiety. 

Anxiety, along with shyness and self-doubt, turn Kenzie’s Kingdom from a standard fantasy tale into something young readers will see themselves in. Mental illness isn’t a main discussion point in the book but is still dealt with, enough that it’s relatable without being overpowering for its intended age range. Through her friendship with Gavin, Kenzie becomes more comfortable as the book progresses, at one point even ditching the trusty sweatshirt she’s worn for years. She doesn’t have to change who she is to make a new friend and her self-acceptance and growth will inspire readers to see that in themselves as well. 

While their friendship grows, Kenzie also teaches Gavin how to read, using the King’s Castle library. Her relationship with her siblings flourishes once they find out about Gavin, as they all work together to help him boost his knight skills to pass the Knight’s Challenge. The bonds of family are strengthened alongside her developing social skills. Readers dealing with seemingly all-too-perfect family members may want to look closer at their own relationships after seeing how Kenzie’s change and grow. 

The art of Kenzie’s Kingdom is colorful and cartoonish, very appealing to beginning chapter book readers. The coloring, done by Silvana Brys, is perfectly matched to it. Fralandia comes alive on the pages, transporting readers to an often magical world. 

Kenzie’s Kingdom is best recommended for readers ages 7 to 11. Fans of Fontana and Garbowska’s previous work with the DC Superhero Girls will enjoy this time traveling tale, as well as fans of Victoria Jamison’s All’s Faire in Middle School and Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn series. 

Kenzie’s Kingdom
By Shea Fontana
Art by Agnes Garbowska, Silvana Brys
Simon & Schuster, 2022
ISBN: 9781638490722

Publisher Age Rating: 9-11

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)
Character Representation:  Anxiety

Adventure Kingdom, vol 1

Adventure Kingdom is an abandoned theme park story that enthralls from start to finish. The novel opens with the famous world showman Jerome Baker, creator of Adventure Kingdom, awarding a prize to one lucky winner. After winning, Clark receives a gold coin as his prize. Skip ahead a few years and Adventure Kingdom is now abandoned. Clark decides to visit the abandoned theme park and live-stream his adventure to his adoring online followers. While live-streaming, he runs into Karoline, granddaughter of Jerome Baker, who claims that her family watches over the abandoned theme park and that her grandfather hasn’t been seen in years. Soon, to their surprise, they meet Eddie, a talking monkey in a bellhop uniform. Eddie helps them discover that there is far more to Adventure Kingdom than meets the eye.

The real Adventure Kingdom can only be accessed by using the magic gold coin Clark received as a kid. Little did Clark know that the tiny gold coin he received as a child would be the key to an epic adventure and that the kingdom he and Karoline thought they knew was just the tip of the iceberg. A hidden world vast with robots, talking animals, and theme park attractions that come to life, this is no ordinary amusement park. It is enchanted.  Evil pig-like humanoid creatures, referred to as goons, do the bidding of the Iron King, the mysterious unseen ruler (the Wizard of Oz, if you will) of Adventure Kingdom. The Iron King’s goal is to gain possession of the magic coin. The goons hunt down Clark and Karoline for the elusive coin. For how scary the goons are, we meet creatures that are equally as adorable. Readers are introduced to the ringalings which are cute, pom-pom-like creatures that help Karoline and Clark use the train system to travel around the park. These cute creatures are needed to alleviate the dark tone of the novel.

The colorist, Sonia Muruno, uses dark gray and blue shades, reflecting the darkness of the atmosphere. Together with illustrator Pedro Rodriguez, they truly capture the mysterious mood of the amusement park. Detailed shading gives each of the characters definition and their own unique personalities. The expressive illustrations capture emotions, as well as action sequences, enormously well. As a nice touch, the novel includes inserts of different rides and attractions in Adventure Kingdom. The illustrations have a movie poster-like quality that is particularly enticing. The reader truly feels like they are viewing a real amusement park poster.

This was a solid series debut. Adventure Kingdom will appeal to children that enjoy the fantasy genre. There are enough twists and interesting characters to keep even the most reluctant reader engaged. Fans of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and the Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum will enjoy the whimsical and magical setting. The small cast of characters make this an accessible read. Kids will eat up this book and look forward to the sequel.

Adventure Kingdom Vol. 1
By Steve Foxe
Art by Pedro Rodriguez
Andrews McNeel, 2021
ISBN: 9781524869823

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)

The Pup Detectives, vols. 1-3

The world of beginning reader comics and graphic novels is growing rapidly. Toon Books has dominated the scene for the last ten years with their leveled books, while blockbusters like Narwhal and Jelly bridge kids from leveled readers into Dog Man. A lot of beginning reader comics are very simple stories and full of silliness. While everyone loves silliness some of the time, older kids who are still struggling with reading might want something a little more substantial, but don’t have the confidence for more complex language and stories. Enter Pup Detectives. With a satisfying trade paperback size and format, the large font and efficient dialog deliver action packed mysteries that an emerging reader can easily digest. While I only read the first three books for this review, Simon and Schuster has published six books in the series this year in quick succession, created by the powerhouse international creative agency Glass House Graphics. Who doesn’t love handing a young reader a nice stack of comics to sink their teeth into?

The Pup Detectives series is set at Pawston Elementary where the student body is made up of anthropomorphized animals. While there’s a wide variety of animal types from cheetahs to rabbits to owls, most of our main characters are dogs. Book one, The First Case, has the team assemble chapter by chapter, starting with Rider Woofson. He begins the book with a hard boiled detective narration about the dark side of Pawston and the pencil theft ring he’s trying to crack. Rora Gooddog joins him early in the book, a practical and competent foil to Rider’s impetuous nature. Once they’ve joined forces they take on the mystery of a lunchroom thief terrorizing the school. Red herrings Westie Barker and Ziggy Flulffenstuff are added to the fold until the book ends with the group deciding on the name “P.I. Pack”. Books two and three, The Tiger’s Eye and The Soccer Mystery, follow the team as they foil the heist of a priceless artifact and save kidnapped soccer players in time for the big game. 

I have my doubts Felix Gumpaw is the pseudonym of an individual writer, but I wasn’t able to find out any details. The writing is clear and consistent. Each pup is an easily understood trope: Rider is going headlong into adventure, Rora thinks things through and gets the job done, Westie is an absent minded scientific genius and Ziggy’s running joke hunger lands him in surprisingly helpful situations. There’s not a lot of character development, the focus of the books is much more on hijinks and adventure. There are tons of puns, especially in The Soccer Mystery, with players Lion L. Messy and David Geckom. Most important for the emerging readers, there are very rarely more than four sentences on each page. Even some of the level 2 Toon Books have blocks of text that may intimidate readers, Pup Detectives manages a great economy of words to move forward the story. They aren’t brilliant or touching; as an adult reader I didn’t find them particularly interesting, but as a librarian and parent I see how they make a 2nd or 3rd grader still a little unsteady with reading sit down and read for half an hour straight. Popcorn reading at its poppiest and corniest, in the best possible way.

The digital art by illustrator Walmir Archanjo is cartoonish and bright. Some of the pups are recognizable as specific dog breeds, others are more generic. I enjoyed seeing the many ways different animals were fit into human form. Often the characters are clearly copied and pasted, similar poses repeating, but it’s not too disruptive. There are establishing backgrounds sprinkled throughout with most panels filled in by different vivid shades. The large print all caps text is beneficial to kids with vision problems and dyslexia, something I’m often looking for to satisfy elementary patrons who want something beyond picture books. Word balloons become jagged with intense emotions and energy. There is a great sense of movement that animates the many action sequences, an anime or manga sensibility coming through. The art serves the zippy fun of the books. 

Every children’s collection should carry this series with its fun filled adventures that will build confidence in shaky readers who feel like they should have moved on from beginning reader books. Kids who have been fans of Scooby Doo and Paw Patrol will step easily into the subject matter and kids who already enjoy more wordy series like Dog Man and Geronimo Stilton will find a lot to enjoy, too. Some continuing threads like the henchpup Rotten Ruffhouse and the mastermind Matty Meow run through the books, but the plots don’t build off of each other. You can easily enjoy them out of order. 


The Pup Detectives, vols. 1-3
By Felix Gumpaw
Art by Walmir Archanjo
Simon & Schuster Little Simon, 2021
Vol. 1: The First Case, ISBN: 9781534474949
Vol. 2: The Tiger’s Eye, ISBN: 9781534474970
Vol. 3: The Soccer Mystery, ISBN: 9781534478701
Publisher Age Rating: 5-9

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)
Creator Representation: Afro-Latinx

The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor

A novel-obsessed teen finds herself drawn into a meta-textual alternate universe in The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor.

Haley would rather write another book report on Wuthering Heights than any other topic, to her teacher’s despair. She’s so obsessed with gothic tropes that she dresses like a modern-day gothic heroine. She’s the sort of person who vehemently rejects the world she lives in in favor of the imagined literary world. 

Haley is thrilled at first when she’s thrown into an alternate universe that looks just like the inside of one of her beloved gothic novels. She’s confused, though, that the castle she encounters, Willowweep Manor, does not conform to any historical style from our world, but reads like a strange mishmash that has never existed. At Willowweep, she meets three brothers: Laurence, Montague, and Cuthbert, who each conform to gothic tropes. Laurence is a taciturn hero, Montague a handsome rogue, and Cuthbert an empty-headed fop. The manor’s maid, Wilhelmina, is surly and mysterious, with an unknown link to the manor’s disappeared mistress. There are other characters at the manor straight out of gothic central casting, including a ghost and an evil monk. 

Haley soon learns that Willowweep doesn’t conform to any historical styles or real-world rules because it isn’t actually in the world: it is a “gasket universe,” a tiny reality that keeps a safe distance between our universe and another one that contains an ultimate evil called “the Bile.” At first, Haley is angry when she learns the big secret of Willowweep Manor; she was hoping for a “shocking murder” or “mad relation in the attic.” Soon, though, she’s called on to defeat the Bile and defend her own reality. The finale is not so much a repudiation of gothic tropes as a celebration of strength found in unexpected places. There’s room left in the ending for more adventures for Haley and Montague. 

Garrity’s dialog is snappy and amusing, pushing the action along with a pace akin to animated TV. The framing and rhythm of the action are similarly propulsive. Readers are in assured hands with Garrity’s writing and Baldwin’s lively art.

The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor will appeal to readers as spirited as Haley who know what they like and are passionate about it. The more familiar readers are with gothic tropes, the more they’ll find to love in Willowweep Manor, but even those out of the loop can identify with feeling trapped in their set role. Middle and high schoolers may even be inspired to seek out and read some of the novels that inspire Haley; hopefully future editions will include a reading list. Haley is Black, all other characters are White. Recommended for all but the smallest Young Adult collections.


The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor
By Shaenon Garrity
Art by Christopher Baldwin
Simon & Schuster, 2021
ISBN: 9781534460867
Publisher Age Rating: 12+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Character Representation: Black

Super Turbo saves the day

Graphic adaptations of popular prose texts are nothing new, but this past year has produced a trend of producing these adaptations for ever-younger readers. Graphic versions of I Survived and Goosebumps are being succeeded by graphic adaptations of beginning chapter books and even easy readers.

My Weird School, Magic Tree House, and others are getting their own graphic versions, but Simon and Schuster has gone all the way with a flurry of new releases adapting their most popular Little Simon titles, from The Kingdom of Wrenly to the selection for this review, Super Turbo.

The original title includes black and white illustrations and is a graphic blend, with short comics woven into the story. The art was conceived by George O’Connor, better-known for his Olympians series and the author, Lee Kirby, is most likely a pseudonym either for O’Connor himself or a Stratemeyer-like syndicate used by Simon and Schuster. There is a similar series, Captain Awesome, by “Stan Kirby” with O’Connor’s illustrations as well. I suspect the “author” for the graphic novel version, Edgar Powers, is also a pseudonym, since it is a faithful adaptation of the prose book, with simplified dialogue and some of the description cut out.

The plot is a familiar one, featuring classroom pets with a secret life. In this opening story, Turbo, the class hamster for the 2nd graders in Classroom C, is doing a little light exploring during a snow day when he encounters a number of other class pets. Once their initial surprise wears off, they discover they all have something in common: secret identities as superheroes! Their casual jaunt through the school to meet the other class pets is derailed when they encounter the villainous Whiskerface and his army of “rats” in the cafeteria and the story finishes with the class pets’ decision to use their powers to protect the school and the promise of more adventures to come.

The artist, Salvatore Costanza, is part of a large graphic design group, Glass House Graphics, and the group has done a decent job of expanding and colorizing O’Connor’s original art. The animals match the original black and white pictures: Turbo the pudgy hamster, Angelina, a guinea pig with a lightning bolt on her chest and dramatic mohawk, polka-dotted gecko, etc. The only color in the original is on the cover and the graphic novel matches Turbo’s colors there, giving him a creamy belly, green goggles, and yellow cape. Several of the pets, including Angelina the Wonder Pig, have rather freakish bare arms but this is also true to the original. The art is simple but colorful, with brightly colored but minimal backgrounds, basic furniture, and cartoon animals sporting bright colors. The panels maintain a strict sequential order, making it simple for intermediate readers to follow the dialogue and action.

If you have young readers who refuse to look at anything that’s not fully illustrated and in color, are big fans of Branches and other easy, illustrated chapters, or who love the original series, this is a good addition. The cost is higher than the original of course, but the paperback bindings appear to be sturdy and they are an attractive addition to beginning chapter collections. One caution though; unlike other graphic adaptations like My Weird School which maintain the same size, Simon & Schuster’s graphic adaptations are significantly larger, closer to the size of a typical Graphix paperback like Bone rather than the smaller paperback chapters. If, like me, you keep your beginning chapter books in tubs, this is definitely something to keep in mind when considering this addition to your library.


Super Turbo Saves the Day
By Edgar Powers
Art by Salvatore Costanza
ISBN: 9781534474468
Simon & Schuster, 2021

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)
Related to…: Book to Comic

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s Journey to Justice

Thanks to her powerful stances on social justice and civil rights, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has become a cultural icon. Becoming RBG traces Ginsberg’s childhood and her legal career to her eventual appointment to the Supreme Court. Readers also learn about her personal life, such as her loving and supportive relationships with her husband and mother and her cooking tribulations. There is plenty to enjoy in the text, although there are some aspects that keep it from being a total home run.

The details of Ginsberg’s childhood through her early legal career are quite well done because of the way they mix the personal and public. In addition to learning about Ruth’s success as a student, the story tells the reader about her experiences with anti-Semitism and gender discrimination, setting the stage for her legal career. Ginsberg’s childhood and her personal relationships are well-portrayed and add charm to a work that focuses predominantly on her career. The story also clearly captures Ginsberg’s passion and abilities, and that with the mix of personal and public create an inspirational and engaging read.

The illustrations capture Ginsberg’s passion and explain certain aspects of her career without weighing the reader down. That being said, there are parts where text is broken up unnecessarily, and there are images where people appear with Ginsberg but are not clearly identifiable unless they have appeared before. The last few pages of the book are predominantly text with an image of Ginsberg—a jolting diversion from the rest of the text that makes the last few pages a bit of a slog.

Later in the book, it is difficult to fully appreciate her impact as a lawyer and how she fits into the broader conversation. One example of this is the article, Jane Crow, which drew connections between gender and racial discrimination and had an impact on Ginsberg’s legal arguments. The comic does not clarify that Pauli Murray (a black female lawyer and activist) co-wrote the article until much later in the text; the delay results in a less clear demonstration of Murray’s influence on Ginsberg as effectively as compared to other individuals, such as Ginsberg’s mother Celia Bader and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Another point that could have been clarified is the different level of scrutiny laws can undergo; that makes some of the latter parts of Ginsberg’s legal journey a little unclear and, at times, makes it difficult to fully understand the impact of Ginsberg’s work and its contributions to civil rights as a whole. While these issues don’t entirely detract from the work, they—along with the set-up of the last few pages—keep the work from rising to its full potential.

Despite the issues mentioned, Becoming RBG is a solid work that will likely appeal to RBG fans who are interested in an easily digestible and triumphant biography, and libraries will likely want to purchase it for this reason. Libraries will be excited to know that there is a hardback version available for purchase, and there is a bibliography and timeline available at the end. Simon & Schuster recommends this for readers ten and above. Because the work goes into some detail about social issues and law but not too much detail, this recommendation makes sense as a starting point. Tween, teens, and adults will likely be the most interested.

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s Journey to Justice
By Debbie Levy
Art by Whitney Gardner
ISBN: 9781534424562
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 10 & up

Fake Blood

Whitney Gardner’s debut graphic novel hits on all the normal middle grade book tropes: crushes, friendship issues, and trying to find your place. But there’s a quirky twist: vampires.

AJ feels invisible. He has two best friends, Ivy and Hunter, who are adventurous and brave. They are constantly doing exciting activities like bungee jumping and rock climbing and they are always ready to challenge each other to a bet. AJ hangs in the background, feeling boring in comparison. They are just starting sixth grade and all AJ has to show for his summer break is the pile of books he read. And then there’s his growing unrequited crush on Nia, a beautiful classmate who AJ can’t get up the courage to talk to.

Nia is obsessed with vampires, so AJ pretends to be one to get her attention. With some makeup under his eyes, hair gel, and fake blood, he strikes up a friendship with her. His plan works well—too well—and soon Nia, who aspires to be a vampire slayer, is hunting him down to defeat him.

The characters are not cookie-cutter. Nia is black, Ivy is a tomboy, and AJ has a single mother. These are easy choices by Gardner that aren’t the main point of the story. It’s just the world the characters live in–which is just like the real world, but is sadly not often shown in children’s books.

Using cartoony, colorful illustrations, Gardner tells a relatable, realistic story, but with charm and humor. She infuses the story with quirky jokes and events. It is a chaste, fun, entertaining read for middle schoolers. Even with vampires and monsters within, the story remains safe and non-violent. AJ, Nia, Ivy, and Hunter have to work together in the end and they all confide a secret they’ve been keeping. AJ has felt boring compared to his friends, but in reality, all four of the characters deal with that same feeling of not being enough.

Fake Blood is a quick, amusing read that I definitely recommend for juvenile readers.

Fake Blood
By Whitney Gardner
ISBN: 9781481495561
Simon & Schuster, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 10+

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Character Traits: Black, White,

Owly and Wormy: Bright Lights and Starry Nights

 

owly-and-wormyFor this wordless picture book/graphic novel series, Owly and Wormy use symbols and expressions to tell their story. In this story, Owly and Wormy can’t wait to try out Owly’s new telescope. However, they must face all of their fears of the night: the dark, rain, and bats. Luckily, with Owly’s bravery and sense of adventure, they can make new friends and see all the stars.

One of the hardcover picture books that complement the paperback graphic novel series, this is a nice, short addition to the mix. As Owly and Wormy work to overcome the challenges that spring up during their adventure, readers use the imagery to tell the story. Not only does this build skills for eventual text reading, children also must read the facial expressions to see how the characters are feeling, which helps build social skills. With a nice flow and just a taste of scariness, Owly and Wormy find their way through the forest.

The full color, large-scale pictures are fun to see, compared to the black and white graphic novels. Owly and Wormy retain their characteristic cuteness and expressive faces, but the backgrounds have a whole new depth. There are no traditional comic book panels, but many pages contain multiple progressive images. These are broken up with some full- and double-page spreads. This makes the book even easier to understand than the regular series, much like a graphic novel with training wheels.

This is a great starter book for young readers who might not be able to sit through an entire graphic novel. The illustrations are adorable with their rich, full color. Owly and Wormy are a nice addition to any graphic novel collection, and this book fits in well for the earliest graphic novel readers.

Owly and Wormy: Bright Lights and Starry Nights
by Andy Runton
ISBN: 9781416957751
Simon & Schuster, 2013

Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace (Frankie Pickle, book 3)


   
Frankie Pickle is a boy with a huge imagination. One day, during his math test, Frankie’s fantastic imagination gets away from him and suddenly he finds himself being attacked by the numbers on his test, who have turned in to the warriors of a land called Arithmecca! Just as Frankie is about to be eaten by Omnipuss, the terrfying leader of the number monsters, Frankie’s teacher, Miss Gordon, announces the time for the quiz is over. All Frankie has on his paper are the number monsters he has drawn all over the page. The next day, Miss Gordon passes the tests back and takes Frankie aside. She gives him one more chance to pass the quiz. Frankie is planning to study all weekend, but his family and friends keep distracting him with card games, grocery store trips, and baking cupcakes. How will Frankie pass the test now?

Frankie Pickle is one of my favorite children’s comic book characters. He’s adorable, smart, and incredibly creative. He gets along well with his family and genuinely wants to do well in school. It’s not his fault everyone keeps stopping him from studying or that, when he does try, the numbers keep turning into monsters that want to eat him. Frankie’s imagination is what makes these books worth reading. He turns a fun card game with his friend into something resembling a fight in the Tron grid. He imagines his dog Argyle, one of my favorite parts of the book, into a wizard who helps him fight numbers, and he makes baking cupcakes with his dad into a magic spell. This book is just good fun.

While there is little multi-dimensional character development of the other characters, we get to know Frankie’s friends and family through how he imagines them. His sister is sporty and bossy, his mom is kind and clever, and his dad is a magician with a wooden spoon. Argyle the dog is my favorite character. He does not appear much in the actual text of the story, but Wight’s drawings of his expressions make Argyle fun to watch. He is usually loyally following Frankie into his imagination, but looking terrified about the whole endeavor.

Wight’s illustration style works well with the text to reveal the story and the characters. The illustrations are used mostly for Frankie’s imagination, showing the transformation from the real to the imagined with thick black lines that create really vibrant scenes. Wight uses striking angles, making the book feel very energetic, exactly the way I would describe Frankie. The artwork feels like Frankie created it. While the illustrations are scattered throughout, instead of being on every page, the scenes Wight chooses to draw add a lot of life to the story and helped me get a much better idea of who Frankie was.

This book was a lot of fun to read. While the overall story line was pretty easy to figure out from the beginning, Frankie’s imagination brings excitement to every page. Kids will love this book and not even mind that they are getting a bit of a math lesson, too.

Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace (Frankie Pickle, book 3)
by Eric Wight
ISBN: 9781416989721
Simon and Schuster, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: 7-10

The Good Neighbors, Book One: Kin

Her mother has vanished and her father has stopped going to work, but Rue Silver’s not worried. Really. Only it is bothering her that she’s apparently going crazy, seeing things that aren’t there, that can’t be there. Things like faeries. Two of the great creators of dark fantasy combine their prodigious talents to kick off a trilogy about a girl caught by the ties of family in the middle of what is about to be a showdown between faeries and humans.

Holly Black is best known for the children’s fantasy series The Spiderwick Chronicles (illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi and published by Simon and Schuster), but for my money her best work is her three urban fantasy novels, Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside (also published by Simon and Schuster). Those three novels make readers think back to the older faerie tales, with all of the horrors that were evident in them. Kin walks the same paths, though it stumbles a bit at the end.

Rue is a compelling character. Her snarky attitude and goth outlook are a perfect match with the dark story. She’s not too perfect, not too imperfect, which makes her nice to read about and easy to identify with. Many of the other characters are not as well developed, though several of them seem likely to be in the later volumes of the trilogy. Of particular interest is Tam, a boy who is compelled to speak the truth, for good or ill, and whose ties with the faeries may not be as strong as they might seem at first glance….

This review was originally posted at Good Comics for Kids. Please visit the original post to see the rest of the review.

The Good Neighbors, book one: Kin
Written by Holly Black, art by Ted Naifeh
ISBN (Hdbk) 978-0-439-85562-4
GRAPHIX, September 2008