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

FIRE OVER SWALLOWHAVEN

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.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

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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With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.

RISE OF THE EARTH DRAGON

From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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