A mightily marvelous sequel.


From the Emblem Island series , Vol. 2

Tor, Melda, and Engle embark on an adventure miraculous and precarious to save Estrelle from the dreaded Calavera.

Following the Night Witch’s demise, which led to her cursing (and perhaps blessing) Tor with her prodigious powers, her wide-reaching curses and spells have been broken. The Calavera, a band of fearsome, malicious pirates, now seek the Pirate’s Pearl, a powerful orb that grants its possessor the power to control the mighty seas. To halt the Calavera’s looming assault on Estrelle, Tor, Melda, and Engle set sail on the Night Witch’s ship before the gruesome pirates can reach their beloved village. Aided by newcomer Vesper, a feisty silver-haired waterbreather with her share of secrets, as well as the Book of Seas, Tor and friends gain new friendships, face fearsome creatures and foes, and traverse the ferocious seas in their quest for the Pearl. Aster’s brisk, lyrical prose weaves rich, intriguing worldbuilding details and wrinkles into this engrossing series that encompasses tales indebted to Latin American myths. A few slower middle chapters introduce new characters that expand the world’s scope; this entry showcases the author’s profound strides in maturing her characters, the series’ true strength. As Tor grapples with his newfound power and role as the Night Witch’s successor, the trio also slowly explores the still-fresh wounds and traumas from their previous adventure. A cliffhanger ending thankfully promises even more adventures. Characters have a range of skin tones.

A mightily marvelous sequel. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4926-9723-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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


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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From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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