Strong characters and humor lift an otherwise slow and complicated plot.


From the Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding series , Vol. 1

The consequences of a centuries-old bargain fall on Prosper Redding.

The Reddings, premier WASP family of the posh Massachusetts town of Redhood, are rich, talented, and successful—except for 12-year-old Prosper, a bullied D student. On Founder’s Day, the extended family gathers, taking twins Prosper and Prue to the dungeon basement of their family estate for an odd ceremony that ends in an attack on Prosper. Rescued by a stranger, he wakes to learn that his rescuer is his disgraced uncle, Barnabas Redding. Aided by his witch daughter, biracial, bronze-skinned Nell (whose identity goes largely unplumbed), Barnabas has hidden Prosper from the Reddings. Barnabas and Nell tell Prosper of a complicated mythology (it involves four realms: of humans, spirits, fiends, and ancients) and explain that in 1693, Honor Redding made a deal with a type of fiend called a malefactor in exchange for family prosperity. A later attempt to break the contract went wrong, enabling the malefactor—Alastor—to be reborn, trapped in Prosper. Alastor waits, gathering his strength to escape for vengeance on the Reddings—which Prosper must prevent. Alastor’s supernatural threats aside, Prosper thrives in hiding, out from the Redding shadow. From time to time, sometimes conveyed in third-person breaks in Prosper’s narration, the entertaining Alastor possesses Prosper, leading to comedic moments as he adjusts to the modern world. The betrayal- and twist-packed conclusion sets up the sequel.

Strong characters and humor lift an otherwise slow and complicated plot. (Fantasy/horror. 9-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7817-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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