Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe, Noah Z. Jones

Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe

Princess Pink isn’t a princess, nor is she a fan of the color pink. In defiance of her frothy moniker, Princess prefers “dirty sneakers, giant bugs, mud puddles, and cheesy pizza” over fairies, ballerinas, and the princess dresses her mother attempts to foist upon her. Unsurprisingly, the magical world Princess stumbles upon through her refrigerator door one night isn’t a Narnia, an Oz, or even a sideways Wonderland. Instead, the Land of Fake-Believe is a shared fairy-tale universe gone amok, with an oddball cast of subverted characters such as the green-haired Moldylocks (of Three Beards fame—”much scarier than bears”), The Three Pugs, a kleptomaniac fowl named Little Red Quacking Hood, and, perhaps oddest of all, the Tunacorn, a kind of unicorn with a tuna fish for a horn.

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Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl

Zita is a pretty typical 10-year-old who spends her time doing average 10-year-old things. Unlike her more reticent best friend, Joseph, Zita revels in leaping before looking. So when the duo stumbles upon a smoking crater with a strange-looking device, Zita’s impulses get the better of her and she pushes the big, red button in the center. Before she can say “oops,” a portal materializes out of thin air, pulling Joseph into its embrace before winking out of existence once more.

Her immediate response is one even grownups are familiar with: to run, panicked, in the other direction. But then a different sort of emotion kicks in. Recovering the device, Zita reactivates the portal, plunging headfirst into the breach. When she finally comes to on the other side, it’s on a brave new planet, one that shares more in common with Tatooine than Oz or Narnia.

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Gum Girl: Catastrophe Calling!

Gum Girl: Catastrophe Calling!

Eight-year-old Grace Gibson is the new girl in the town of Catastrophe, a disaster-prone locale where volcanoes erupt, giant robots run amok, meteors plummet from the skies, and escaped inmates from the Asylum for Crafty Criminals plot world domination on a near-daily basis. Grace has trouble fitting in at school, where her father’s the headmaster, until a chemistry experiment gone awry leads her to brew an arsenal of bubblegum with superpower-imbuing properties.

Determined to bring order to the chaos around her, Grace adopts the crime-fighting guise of Gum Girl. Along with Billy Fisher, her classmate-turned-best friend with a knack for getting into scrapes, Grace metes out justice with humor, optimism, and unflagging joie de vivre. Gum Girl may be pink and bubbly, but she also has brains, gumption, and gum to spare—plenty useful when the adults around you are as clueless as they are incompetent.

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The Radically Awesome Adventures of the Animal Princess, Pranas T. Naujokaitis

The Radically Awesome Adventures of the Animal Princess

Animal Princess would rather muck about in the sewers fighting slime monsters than wear another frilly princess dress. In fact, she frequently does, ditching the usual royal trappings for animal-themed pajamas that grant her the abilities of the creatures she emulates.

With her trusty feline steed, Buttercup, at her side, Animal Princess dispatches nefarious thee-head wizards, frosting-spewing sentient cupcakes, and spectral dust bunnies alike with moxie and an almost fiendish aplomb. You won’t find any shoehorned moral lessons here; The Radically Awesome Adventures of the Animal Princess is pure bombastic mischief.

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