Nordling and Roberts tap into the pure, child-
like imagination that makes stories such as The
Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonder-
land such classics, and they do it all in a simple
comic perfect for the youngest of readers and
prereaders. Little ones will
savor every panel, espe-
cially as things turn weird,
with gigantic musical notes
raining down from the sky
onto an undulating orange
road dotted with chairs
that have morphed into
thrones. Vibrant purples,
teals, and golds brighten this fantasy world as
well as the realistic but still cartoonish world
of Belinda’s school, where she and her class-
mates represent a variety of skin tones and
body shapes. Adults will appreciate the gentle
message of good sportsmanship, while children
will be caught up in the adventure of this won-
derful addition to wordless comics for young
readers. —Snow Wildsmith
Earth before Us, v.1: Dinosaur Empire!
By Abby Howard. Illus. by the author.
Aug. 2017. 128p. Abrams/Amulet, $15.99
(9781419723063). 741.5. Gr. 4–7.
When Ronnie flunks what’s supposed to be
an easy quiz about dinosaurs, she’s understandably dejected. How is she supposed to learn
everything about dinosaurs before her retake
test tomorrow? Enter her “eccentric” (“Means
she’s a weirdo”) neighbor, Miss Lernin, a retired paleontologist who’s happy to educate
Ronnie. But Miss Lernin takes a page out of
Ms. Frizzle’s book when it comes to teaching
methods, and she whisks Ronnie back in time
to the Mesozoic Era (“Science Magic”). One
quick lesson on evolution later, and the pair
is off, traveling through the Triassic, Jurassic,
and Cretaceous periods to explore the way dinosaurs and other creatures lived and evolved.
This is more a creative presentation of facts
than a true adventure story, although there
are plenty of tongue-in-cheek jokes buried in
the energetic, sometimes frenzied illustrations,
which pack in as many dinosaurs and diagrams
as possible as well as cartoonish figures with
wide-eyed gazes. It’s an effective way of putting
the vast history of the world before humans
in perspective; dinosaur nuts (and there are
many) will eat it up. —Maggie Reagan
Good Night, Planet.
By Liniers. Illus. by the author.
Sept. 2017. 40p. TOON, $12.95 (9781943145201).
741.5. K–Gr. 3.
A little girl has a busy day playing with her
stuffed animal, and when it’s time for bed,
she sweetly tucks it under the covers, saying,
“Goodnight, Planet.” Planet’s day, however, is
far from over. The plush creature crawls out of
bed and down to the living room, where the
family’s dog, Elliot, is eager to play. Planet and
Elliot (who never speaks) are enjoying some
cookies when they hear a new voice—Bradley,
a mouse, knows where to find the biggest
cookie any of them has ever seen. That cookie
is the moon, and Planet reaches his long arms
out and takes a big leap to try to catch it. Li-
niers’ beautifully rendered
scenes in fine ink lines and
saturated watercolor washes
give this gentle fantasy a
naturalistic look, though
his focus on the floppy,
fawn-like Planet keeps it
thoroughly dreamlike. His
panel layouts stirringly
evoke movement and grandeur, such as when
Planet sees the moon for the first time on a
full-page illustration and when he gently falls
with a soft “pof” into a pile of leaves after
trying to grab the moon. There are plenty of
stories about what toys get up to at night, but
this quiet, masterfully executed comic is par-
ticularly enchanting. —Sarah Hunter
The Loud House, v.1: There Will Be Chaos.
Ed. by Jeff Whitman.
2017. 64p. illus. Papercutz, $12.99 (9781629917412).
741.5. Gr. 2–4.
Lincoln Loud is aptly named. He has 10
sisters (he’s the only boy), and this frenetic
collection of stories about the cartoonish antics of his family is riotous. The first story is
a choose-your-own-adventure-style comic, in
which Lincoln is hunting for the TV remote
and has to ask each sister (and a few pets) to
help him find it. In a thoughtful piece of book
design, flipping through the pages in a traditional manner won’t spoil the ending. Other
stories explore the personalities of his sisters
and the travails of living in such a crowded
household, such as when Lincoln wants to call
a girl, but everywhere he goes, sisters are lurking with sly, knowing looks on their faces. The
bright colors and animated drawing style reflect the series’ source material, a Nickelodeon
TV show, and heighten the comical slapstick
atmosphere. While the jokes are sometimes
predictable, and the characters are all a bit
one-note, there’s plenty of appeal to kids here,
especially those who love the quick-fire jokes
of TV cartoons. —Sarah Hunter
Lucy & Andy Neanderthal: The Stone
By Jeffrey Brown. Illus. by the author.
Aug. 2017. 224p. Crown, $12.99 (9780385388382);
e-book, $15.99 (9780385388405); e-book, $12.99
(9780385388399). 741.5. Gr. 3–6.
In the continuing adventures of Neanderthal
siblings Lucy and Andy, their family is joined
by a group of early humans, and as the cold
weather sets in, the two groups struggle to
comfortably live together in a too-small cave.
While Lucy easily makes friends with the new
kids, Andy’s feeling chaffed by the close quar-
ters, and he’s eager to help the humans find
a new cave to live in, though his reasons are
far from altruistic. In between Brown’s spot-
on depiction of jealousies, braggadocio, and
bravery among the kids from both groups, a
pair of paleontologists appears to offer scien-
tific background on what life might have been
like 40,000 years ago and how scientists have
made those discoveries. The fictional narrative
provides a nice framework for the background
context, and the tone of the paleontologists’
lesson is lighthearted and sometimes silly.
Brown’s cartoonish figures, rendered in pleas-
antly jittery lines, are full of character, and his
comedic timing shines in his panel layouts. For
fans of the series opener or kids who like learn-
ing about prehistoric eras. —Sarah Hunter
Mighty Jack and the Goblin King.
By Ben Hatke. Illus. by the author.
Sept. 2017. 208p. First Second, paper, $14.99
(9781626722668). 741.5. Gr. 3–6.
At the end of Hatke’s series starter, Mighty
Jack (2016), Jack and Lily chased after the
plant ogre that spirited Jack’s sister, Maddy,
away through a portal. The story picks up immediately afterward as Jack and Lily clamber
into an utterly unknown place, where strange
floating islands are connected by thick vines.
Driven by the urge to rescue his sister at all
costs, Jack brashly presses on, and when he
and Lily get separated, he continues up the
vine, while Lily finds herself among a gang
of friendly goblins, though they have some
ulterior motives. As he did in the first book,
Hatke fills his full-bleed pages with hordes of
fantastic monsters rendered in wild, organic
shapes, and he further enlivens the story with
snappy, comical dialogue. Well-wrought action scenes clearly depict the many battles,
and swooping perspectives make the kid heroes look even more gallant. Fans of Hatke’s
Zita the Spacegirl series will be especially
delighted by the cliff-hanger ending, which
ensures many more adventures for the plucky,
clever kids. —Sarah Hunter
Swing It, Sunny.
By Jennifer L. Holm. Illus. by Matthew
Sept. 2017. 224p. Scholastic/Graphix, $24.99
(9780545741705); paper, $12.99 (9780545741729).
741.5. Gr. 3–7.
Sunny Lewin is back home after spending
the summer with Gramps in Florida (Sunny
Side Up, 2015), but things aren’t quite back
to normal. She’s starting middle school, hanging out with her best friend, playing with her
baby brother, and making friends with her new
next-door neighbor, but her brother’s in a military boarding school after getting into trouble
with drugs, and she’s worried about whether
he’s okay. In breezy vignettes spanning a school
year, the Holms offer glimpses into Sunny’s
day-to-day, but her fun is frequently interrupted by fears about her brother, which are
often triggered by totally unrelated things, like
a TV show or an idle joke made by her parents.
While bright, cartoonish art and lively atmosphere are certainly playful, there’s a serious
undercurrent of emotional complexity here.
The Holms do an impressive job of tapping
into the free-associative way kids process anxiety, and Sunny’s gradual process of facing her
fears and finding a way to relate to her brother
is sweet and inspiring. Perfect for fans of Raina
Telgemeier. —Sarah Hunter