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MR. PENGUIN AND THE CATASTROPHIC CRUISE

From the Mr. Penguin series , Vol. 3

Ridiculously charming.

Feathered fussbudget Mr. Penguin and friends return in a third middle-grade adventure, tossing every nautical trope into a gleeful omnishambles.

The celebrated Mr. Penguin has embarked upon a much-anticipated (and, he hopes, very nonadventurous) luxury cruise with his devoted chums Colin, a kung fu–fighting spider; Edith Hedge, a usefully equipped human; and Gordon, a very peculiar pigeon. Shenanigans inevitably ensue, and soon the quartet are up to their eyeballs in coded messages, possible pirates, steampunk mechanisms, and pantoworthy disguises—not to mention a mysterious island, a sea monster, a trench-coated secret agent, and red herrings galore. It’s all gloriously silly, as the (extremely British) humor runs the gamut from groan-inducing puns to subtle meta-textual drollery; but the twisty roller coaster of a plot doesn’t lack for genuine suspense. The pear-shaped Mr. Penguin—prone to panic and a fish-finger sandwich aficionado—is a delightful protagonist, and each of his companions (yes, even Gordon!) gets an opportunity to save the day. The over-the-top cast is cheerfully varied, with several human characters of color. The copious black, white, and orange illustrations reminiscent of Quentin Blake lend the story a daffy verve, and the short chapters with cliffhanger endings make for a perfect read-aloud. Readers need not be familiar with earlier volumes to appreciate this one.

Ridiculously charming. (Adventure. 6-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68263-213-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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THE FIRST CAT IN SPACE ATE PIZZA

From the First Cat in Space series , Vol. 1

Epic lunacy.

Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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THE BAD GUYS

From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face.

Four misunderstood villains endeavor to turn over a new leaf…or a new rap sheet in Blabey's frenzied romp.

As readers open the first page of this early chapter book, Mr. Wolf is right there to greet them, bemoaning his reputation. "Just because I've got BIG POINTY TEETH and RAZOR-SHARP CLAWS and I occasionally like to dress up like an OLD LADY, that doesn't mean… / … I'm a BAD GUY." To prove this very fact, Mr. Wolf enlists three equally slandered friends into the Good Guys Club: Mr. Snake (aka the Chicken Swallower), Mr. Piranha (aka the Butt Biter), and Mr. Shark (aka Jaws). After some convincing from Mr. Wolf, the foursome sets off determined to un-smirch their names (and reluctantly curbing their appetites). Although these predators find that not everyone is ready to be at the receiving end of their helpful efforts, they use all their Bad Guy know-how to manage a few hilarious good deeds. Blabey has hit the proverbial nail on the head, kissed it full on the mouth, and handed it a stick of Acme dynamite. With illustrations that startle in their manic comedy and deadpan direct address and with a narrative that follows four endearingly sardonic characters trying to push past (sometimes successfully) their fear-causing natures, this book instantly joins the classic ranks of Captain Underpants and The Stinky Cheese Man.

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91240-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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