Shadow Island

Orca. (Sueño Bay Adventures: Bk. 1). Oct. 2019. 192p. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781459819610.
Gr 2-4–In this series starter, strange things are afoot in perpetually rainy Sueño Bay, the “home of the supernatural.” It’s the start of a perfectly average spring break for Ollie and his friends—curious Kay, crotchety Jenna, and snot-laden Sleeves—until they investigate rumors of a haunted trailer. There, Ollie and company stumble upon their grumpy gym teacher Ms. Grundle and a pair of strange, raccoonlike horned beasts. Could these be the fabled Moon Creatures of local yore? After a baby Moon Creature (who is later named Conker) sneaks into Ollie’s backpack, the kids find themselves on a quest to return Conker and his mother to their home on Shadow Island. Young readers will eagerly follow the fast-paced adventure and identify with the group’s tendency to make assumptions without getting all the facts. Ollie’s gradually revealed backstory is sad but handled in an age-appropriate manner. Future entries will hopefully expand on the other children, as their character development is superficial at best. The real star here is the artwork, with the muted palette and realistic art style skillfully conveying the naturalistic setting and moody tone. The varied shapes and quantities of the panels propel the narrative forward while shifting perspective almost in real time.
VERDICT Hand to young readers looking for slightly spooky shenanigans.

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