In Binky's first two adventures, he successfully built (sort of) a space rocket and then ventured into outer space itself to protect his best friend from space aliens. Now, in Binky Under Pressure, Ashley Spires delivers another uniquely delightful story of a cat unlike any other. Binky's life has become routine, his daily round monotonous. Then Gracie appears. At first Binky is suspicious and very, very unhappy about having another cat in the house. Until Gracie's secret identity is revealed! Now Binky will have to prove his worth as a space cat all over again, or be kicked out of F.U.R.S.T. Does he have what it takes? Will he and Gracie ever be friends?
Verdict: This series remains fresh and funny, with new twists and characters keeping the story alive throughout this third installment. If you already have the first two Binky books, you'll need to add this one. If you missed out, add all three!
ISBN: 9781554535040; Published September 2011 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab; Purchased for the library
The Sign of the Black Rock is the next installment in Scott Chantler's exciting Three Thieves series. The first book introduced us Dessa, a young down on her luck acrobat and her two friends, the massive Fisk and thievish but not too clever Fisk. They unsuccessfully tried to burgle the queen's tower and are now on the run, with mysterious and soldiers following them all the way.
I was disappointed in this book because none of the plot lines left dangling in the first episode were cleaned up, just made more mysterious. We're introduced to a whole new cast of characters, smugglers, an unpleasant innkeeper, his abused wife, and we see some of the earlier characters return, but we're no closer to finding out Dessa's secrets than she is.
The story is fast-paced and interesting and I like the colorful art, but this book's intended audience are likely to lose interest if the story doesn't give up some secrets soon.
Verdict: Great art, and possibly interesting plot, but insanely annoying cliffhangers. An adult might hang on for more sequels (well, maybe not this adult) but most tweens will lose interest in the series quickly. I recommend waiting until the whole series - or a more substantial number of titles - are available before buying or reading.
ISBN: 9781554534166; Published September 2011 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab; Purchased for the library
Now Bill Slavin's Big City Otto, first in the Elephants Never Forget graphic novel series, is a good example of leaving enough of the story for future volumes without confusing or exasperating readers.
Otto is miserable. He just can't forget his childhood friend, Georgie the monkey, although he's been missing for a long time. Crackers the parrot suggests that they try to find Georgie, and the two of them set off for America. But finding a small monkey in the big city isn't as simple as they had thought and soon they've been separated and Otto has gotten mixed up in a notorious gang of gators. Will Otto forget his old friends, or will he prove he's an elephant and remember they need him?
The quirky illustrations have a strong comic strip flavor and the plot dances through gators bedecked with bling, sneezing elephants, gypsies, zoos, escaped animals, and the mysterious villain, the man with the wooden nose. Although Otto doesn't find his friend Georgie, he and crackers break up a criminal gang and learn that there's a lot of world out there. They end the story with a new clue and the determination to keep searching for their friend, no matter what.
Verdict: This is an interesting new series; hand it to kids who like mysteries with some funny elements in it. The talking animals may be a problem for most mystery loving kids, who in my experience like their mysteries very realistic and conventional, but this would make a fun read-aloud for a younger child as well.
ISBN: 9781554534760; Published September 2011 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab
But rising gas prices, blackouts, and new friends change Luz's life. Now her family is working on buying local food and goods - which means the European shoes she longs for are out of the question. There's no more driving to the mall; she'll have to take a bus. Luz is miserable until she has a vision of what could be...and she decides to try her own project, reclaiming a vacant lot as a community gardens with local art, a park, farmer's market, and communal organic gardens. Her new friend Robert gives her shoes he designed himself and their freaky weird survivalist neighbor turns out to know quite a bit about how to make the world a better place for everyone.
The book is drawn in black, white, and brown shades. The simple art shows the rapidly changing emotions of Luz and her friends and how the vacant lot grows into a wonderful gathering place for the community.
I didn't buy Luz's sudden transformation from oblivious consumer to activist and quite a bit of the dialogue comes off as preachy infodumps. I think it would have worked better to have the information put into side panels instead of having the characters deliver lengthy explanations of what they're doing to survive the energy crisis and create a healthier, sustainable world.
Verdict: Good art and it's great to see a cast of multicultural characters, but too much lesson and not enough plot make this a rather blah read without much kid appeal. School librarians may be interested in purchasing this if their school does projects on sustainable living and it might be a good purchase for your library is there's interest on this topic in the community, as this is a good introduction for kids.
ISBN: 9781554535811; Published August 2011 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab