The author leaves much to be explored and explained in future episodes, but fans of Unfortunate Events will be willing to...

GUSTAV GLOOM AND THE PEOPLE TAKER

From the Gustav Gloom series , Vol. 1

In this promising series opener, a homicidal maniac stalks two children through a spooky old house that’s far larger inside than outside.

Newly moved in across the street, 10-year-old Fernie chases her errant cat through the front door of the mist-wreathed mansion one night, quickly losing herself in a seemingly endless tangle of dark halls and dim rooms. There she meets Gustav, a pale and perpetually somber age-mate who explains that the house is home to millions of unattached shadows—and that she is in immediate danger from the People Taker, evil minion of the Dark Country’s would-be ruler Lord Obsidian. The ensuing flight takes the two young people through a library containing all the books never written, a room filled with the shadows of all the dinosaurs that ever were and like repositories to a climactic struggle with the genial (as it turns out) villain at the lip of the Pit leading to the Dark Country. Along the way Fernie discovers that though shadows are a little more substantial within the house, even in the outside world they are not really attached to solid bodies and actually have volition and lives of their own. Who would have guessed? Margiotta opens each chapter with appropriately atmospheric scenes of big-eyed waifs against undulating backgrounds.

The author leaves much to be explored and explained in future episodes, but fans of Unfortunate Events will be willing to wait. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-448-45833-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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