More inspired silliness, even if some of the more oblique references do go over the heads of younger chapter-book readers.

PIGSTICKS AND HAROLD LOST IN TIME!

From the Pigsticks and Harold series

The baking skills of Pigsticks’ timorous buddy, Harold, come in handy when an out-of-control time machine sends the two careening through history and prehistory.

The mismatched pair’s fourth outing takes a not-entirely-unexpected turn when Pigsticks, impulsive as ever, breaks the handle off a time machine invented by his brilliant great-aunt Ada Lovepig. Suddenly the two find themselves surrounded by glowering dinopigs. They escape for quick, nonchronological encounters with Cleopigtra, Julius Squealer, London in flames (“What’s so great about this fire?”), and builders constructing the Statue of Pigerty before they are seized by Hamfrida the hamster’s Viking minions, whose frightening cries—“GLOOM! DOOM! DENTISTS!”—portend permanent exile in the past. With a simplicity that stands in droll contrast to the narrative’s sophisticated cast, Milway illustrates these misadventures with thick-lined cartoon views of the animal cast in assorted historical dress and settings. Happily, a taste of Harold’s delicious Battenburg cake converts the Vikings from foes to friends. Better yet, a final twist brings the time travelers a spaceship from the future…so it’s interplanetary party time!

More inspired silliness, even if some of the more oblique references do go over the heads of younger chapter-book readers. (Adventure. 7-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8186-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS

This is rather a silly story, and I don't believe children will think it particularly funny. A paper hanger and painter finds time on his hands in winter, and spends it in reading of arctic exploration. It is all given reality when he receives a present of a penguin, which makes its nest in the refrigerator on cubes of ice, mates with a lonely penguin from the zoo, and produces a family of penguins which help set the Poppers on their feet.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1938

ISBN: 978-0-316-05843-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1938

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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