Fast-moving quest fantasy with cool vocabulary and a quickly written vibe.


From the Six Crowns series , Vol. 3

Fighting pirates and waking a phoenix in a volcano are the two primary events in this third installment of a six-part outer-space animal-steampunk adventure.

Hedgehogs Trundle and Esmeralda, with their pal Jack the troubadour squirrel, are bashing around outer space, hunting down six crowns of power. The pirates finally catch up with them, and there’s a swashbuckling battle with various weaponry and explosions. As ever, Jones breezily whips up his own steampunk-flavored natural laws and workings (skyboats are wind-powered, and when wind is low, treadles and propellers do the trick; outer space has dawn, dusk and the objective directions “upward” and “downward”). These are leavened with a touch of classic fantasy science (a “powerstone” keeps each vessel afloat). A long farting scene and a sulfur, treacle and brimstone potion will delight fans of all things stinky. Action moves swiftly, and language is blusterously playful (“Kill ’em to death, y’ swabs!”). Readers who enjoy predictable plots and procedure—one crown per book—will be well satisfied. Others will chafe at the slapdash rhymes that resist scansion (“This clue you have found in the phoenix bird’s fire. / You must seek for the Crown of Ice in the land of Spyre!”). Old age, scars, mental illness and ethnicity (Esmeralda is “Roamany”) get cheap stereotyping.

Fast-moving quest fantasy with cool vocabulary and a quickly written vibe. (Animal steampunk. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-200629-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

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 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale.


From the Heartwood Hotel series , Vol. 1

An orphan mouse unexpectedly arrives at Heartwood Hotel, which she hopes will become the home she’s seeking.

Mona’s never had a home for long. After a storm forces her to flee her latest forest shelter, she discovers an enormous tree with a heart carved into its trunk. When Mona presses the heart, a door opens, and she enters the lobby of Heartwood Hotel, where small forest critters hibernate, eat, and celebrate in safety. The kindhearted badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, takes pity on homeless Mona, allowing her to stay for the fall to assist the maid, Tilly, a red squirrel. Grateful to be at Heartwood, Mona strives to prove herself despite Tilly’s unfriendly attitude. Mona’s clever approaches with a wounded songbird, an anxious skunk, and a wayward bear win Mr. Heartwood’s approval. But when Mona accidentally breaks a rule, Tilly convinces her she will be fired. As Mona secretly leaves Heartwood, she discovers marauding wolves planning to crash Heartwood’s Snow Festival and devises a daring plan to save the place she regards as home. Charming anthropomorphic characters, humorous mishaps, and outside threats add to the drama. Delicate pencil illustrations reinforce Heartwood’s cozy home theme. A sequel, The Greatest Gift, publishes simultaneously.

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3161-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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