cover image The Big Break

The Big Break

Mark Tatulli. Little, Brown, $24.99 (248p) ISBN 978-0-316-44054-7

Inspired by cryptozoology, two best friends plot a horror movie about the legendary Jersey Devil. “OK, wait—not the Jersey Devil like the best hockey team,” they clarify, as the NHL mascot known as the NJ Devil strikes a pose. “He’s kind of like our very own Bigfoot.” Middle schoolers Andrew and Russ hope to win a video contest, but their scheme is tested by Russ’s romance with Tara, a cool kid who shows up to help with the script. “She’s a bigger dork than you!” Russ boasts, praising Tara’s knowledge of monster art. At the library, within earshot of their social circle, Andrew and Russ argue loudly and storm apart. “You broke up with Russ,” a girl sadly confirms to a moping Andrew. In his signature art style, Tatulli (Short & Skinny) focuses on the strained relationship—Russ is changing, and Andrew isn’t ready—but additional subplots further enliven this deftly braided graphic novel. Readers learn the reasons for Andrew’s jealousy and regret, and meet a nuanced cast, an adventurous librarian, and dueling fantasy characters from Andrew’s notebook sketches, all capped off with a quirky, strangely sweet resolution. Tatulli’s likable characters deserve a sequel, with or without mythical creatures. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)