From the Emblem Island series , Vol. 2

A mightily marvelous sequel.

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 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021


From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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