From the Secrets of the Sands series , Vol. 2

A richly detailed, immersive read.

In this sequel to The Lost Scroll of the Physician (2020), the spy they’ve freed leads the young scribes across the Egyptian desert to rescue pharaoh’s daughter from the Hyksos chieftain’s stronghold.

If freeing and following Pepi is risky, remaining in Thebes spells certain death for Sesha, Paser, and Reb. Pepi earns their trust on the hazardous journey where dangers include lethal quicksand and a violent sandstorm. Reuniting with Princess Merat brings new dangers; the chieftain, intending to marry Merat immediately, insists Sesha, 13, be married as well, requiring a quick-thinking ruse. Assisting the venerable Hyksos physician, Sesha notices disconcerting similarities and connections between Hyksos culture and her own: They pray to the same gods and sing their children the same lullabies. The previously disparaging Thebans are shocked to find Hyksos technology superior, admiring the way they cast bronze and use horse-drawn chariots. As famine threatens Egypt, with war all but inevitable, Sesha discovers a passion for peace as deep as her commitment to healing. From her first glimpse of a horse to setting a broken leg, Sesha’s reactions are convincing. This sequel also adds depth to secondary characters (who could use still more). When the action-packed plot threatens to veer out of control, the evocative settings and vivid, quotidian observations of life 3,500 years ago reanchor it. The cliffhanger ending does its job.

A richly detailed, immersive read. (Historical adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4597-4432-5

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Dundurn

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020


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


An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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