A richly detailed, immersive read.


From the Secrets of the Sands series , Vol. 2

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 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.


The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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