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Review: Series Roundup

Every once in a while I like to do a round-up of the latest volumes in series that I’ve enjoyed. It gives me a chance to talk about new volumes and remind you of why I think you should still be buying them for your library. Here are my latest thoughts:

Squish, no. 2: Brave New Pond
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Ages 7-10; Grades 2-5
Random House, September 2011, 96 pages
Hardback ISBN 978-0-375-93784-2, $12.99
Paperback ISBN 978-0-375-84390-7, $6.99

Squish, no. 3: The Power of the Parasite
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Ages 7-10; Grades 2-5
Random House, May 2012, 96 pages
Hardback ISBN 978-0-375-93785-9, $12.99
Paperback ISBN 978-0-375-84391-4, $6.99

Squish is the spin-off story from the Holms siblings’ hugely popular Babymouse and, as such, it could easily be dismissed as simply a way of attracting boy readers who may be turned off by the pervasive pinkness of Babymouse. Luckily, Squish the amoeba is a strong character in his own right…despite literally having no bones. In his second and third outing he continues to deal with two issues that haunt many of his readers: bullying and peer-pressure. Using the same light sarcasm that makes Babymouse as much fun for adults as it is for kids, the Holms don’t try to offer easy solutions. Squish must make tough choices and things do not always work out the way he’d like them to. As he says, “…things are kind of the same. But it’s okay.” Matthew Holm manages to put a lot of emotion into his characters’ blobby faces and the green-tint is a perfect match with the amoeba setting. Art and science activities are included in the back of the books.

Chicagoland Detective Agency, no. 3: The Night of the Living Dogs
Written by Trina Robbins and Illustrated by Tyler Page
Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6
Lerner/Graphic Universe, March 2012, 64 pages
Hardback ISBN 978-0-7613-4616-6, $29.27
Paperback ISBN 978-0-7613-5637-0, $6.95

Boy genius Raf and vegan, poet, goth-girl Megan have their hands full when a mysterious pack of dogs shows up in Chicagoland. But they have their best friend Bradley, a dog who gained the power of speech when he was a lab animal, to help them out, and with his work they solve the mystery—and realize they have more friends than two outcasts ever expected to have. Robbins’ series doesn’t feature the deepest mysteries around, but Raf, Megan, and Bradley’s adventures are fun nonetheless. Mainly this is because they are such likable kids. Raf’s grumpy brainiac qualities blend well with Megan’s girl power, and the light touches of classic horror movie elements keep things moving nicely. Page is adept at putting a good amount of detail into his black-and-white drawings without overcrowding the pages. Readers who have enjoyed the first two mysteries will enjoy this one as well.

Bone: Quest for the Spark, book two
Written by Tom Sniegoski and Illustrated by Jeff Smith
Ages 9-12; Grades 4-6
Scholastic/GRAPHIX, February 2012, 240 pages
Hardback ISBN 978-0-545-14103-1, $22.99
Paperback ISBN 978-0-545-14104-8, $10.99

The quest to stop the Nacht continues in the second of the Quest for the Spark novels. A dark power is taking over the land, sending the peoples of the Valley into a deep sleep. Even Gran’ma Ben and Queen Thorn are affected. But one small band of adventurers — a turnip farmer’s son, a Bone adventurer and his young relatives, a disgraced Veni Yan priest, a raccoon, a mysterious forest spirit, and two Rat creatures—are determined to stop the destruction. Sniegoski, working in the world of Smith’s popular Bone graphic novel series, is slowly building towards something, but mostly he continues to focus on action and adventure. This makes this series a good pick for readers who are more interested in fast-moving plots than deep thoughts, though there are plenty of the later as well. This illustrated novel series is clearly written for older elementary school and middle school, but librarians may want to also suggest it to high school age Bone fans who may be reluctant to try other prose titles.

This review is based on complimentary copies supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Random House, Lerner, and Scholastic.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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