Death & Sparkles

Chronicle. Sept. 2021. 368p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781797206356; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781797206363.
Gr 4-8–Outgoing Sparkles the unicorn is a beloved celebrity who promotes sunshine, rainbows, candy, flowers, cupcakes, and socks; his agent handles merchandising and promotion. Death, or at least an avatar of death who works as a “collections agent,” makes his lonely daily rounds and files paperwork for each collected soul. When a publicity stunt goes wrong, Death collects Sparkles’s soul, only for Sparkles to be sent back to the realm of the living from the great beyond. Sparkles is assigned to find a greater purpose in life, which starts with removing his horn from Death’s behind. Together, they wander from Death’s organized, solitary perch to the chaos of nature and people, opening up to each other along the way. Meanwhile, a group of alien lizards who want to spread an eco-conscious message on Earth replace Sparkles in the influencer hierarchy, rebranding themselves as the Lizard Bros. Justus’s jokes about death, marketing, and the fickle nature of fame are both playful and morbid, as when Death accidentally kills a crowd at a party. Gentle art, rendered in watercolor and colored pencil, softens what could have been a far darker story. The narrative’s point of view jumps around a lot, but readers should not have any trouble keeping track of the vibrant personalities and their motives.
VERDICT Introverts and extroverts alike will unite watching true friendship blossom between Death and a magic unicorn.

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