From the School Ship Tobermory series , Vol. 2

A comfortable, wise tale that is more than anything a story of friendship.

The second School Ship Tobermory installment finds the MacTavish twins cementing friendships and solving mysteries in the Caribbean.

The book opens at the beginning of a school holiday for the diverse student body of the School Ship Tobermory—a sailing ship based in Scotland that is also a boarding school. Twelve-year-old white twins Fee and Ben MacTavish are preparing to spend their holiday at home with their marine-scientist parents when they realize that three of their friends live too far away to go home. In their warmhearted fashion, the twins invite the three to their home. A dangling storyline that will no doubt be picked up in a further installment ensues. Back onboard Tobermory post-holiday, the students and their teachers set sail for the Caribbean. In Antigua, they meet Mike, a black, 13-year-old islander who has had to give up his education to help support his family after his fisherman father mysteriously disappeared two years previously. A cozy mystery instilled with wholesome values, intelligence, and action follows. While Ben and Fee figure prominently, McCall Smith, in his assured third-person narration (with the occasional second-person popping up) branches out and lets other characters drive the plot. McIntosh’s black-and-white illustrations follow the same format as the first book and are just as effective.

A comfortable, wise tale that is more than anything a story of friendship. (backmatter) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55401-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017


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


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

Dizzyingly silly.

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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