A pleasantly gothic pleaser for fans of Unfortunate Events.

GRIMSTONES

In nine chatty letters, young Martha Grimstone introduces her peculiar family, describes the creation and hatching of three-legged little brother Crumpet, and fervently urges readers to write back.

This epistolary narrative has been spun off from a puppet performance and comes with inset photos of Tim Burton–style papier-mâché puppets in elaborately crafted antique settings and animations that range from a circling ring of quail to words that drop to the bottom of the page with a crash. There are also several full-screen interludes in which Martha—moving and gesturing like a marionette—beckons eerily to viewers, dumps potion ingredients into a pot or has a tap-activated exchange with her alchemist grandfather Elcho. She chattily shares hopes and dreams (“You never know, one day I could be the Lady of the Strongest Intestines in the Whole World”) as well as a string of domestic disasters or oddball incidents. In doing so, she repeatedly invites her readers to respond. Responses might in fact be mandatory; in one setting, each letter after the first is locked until the day after an answering letter is composed on a preformatted "Write Back" page. This can be toggled so that Martha writes regardless of readers' correspondence habits. There is no audio narration, but the app is supplied with sound effects and an optional background piano track.

A pleasantly gothic pleaser for fans of Unfortunate Events. (series website) (iPad storybook app. 8-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: X Asphyxia

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay.

HOW TÍA LOLA CAME TO (VISIT) STAY

From the Tía Lola Stories series , Vol. 1

Renowned Latin American writer Alvarez has created another story about cultural identity, but this time the primary character is 11-year-old Miguel Guzmán. 

When Tía Lola arrives to help the family, Miguel and his hermana, Juanita, have just moved from New York City to Vermont with their recently divorced mother. The last thing Miguel wants, as he's trying to fit into a predominantly white community, is a flamboyant aunt who doesn't speak a word of English. Tía Lola, however, knows a language that defies words; she quickly charms and befriends all the neighbors. She can also cook exotic food, dance (anywhere, anytime), plan fun parties, and tell enchanting stories. Eventually, Tía Lola and the children swap English and Spanish ejercicios, but the true lesson is "mutual understanding." Peppered with Spanish words and phrases, Alvarez makes the reader as much a part of the "language" lessons as the characters. This story seamlessly weaves two culturaswhile letting each remain intact, just as Miguel is learning to do with his own life. Like all good stories, this one incorporates a lesson just subtle enough that readers will forget they're being taught, but in the end will understand themselves, and others, a little better, regardless of la lengua nativa—the mother tongue.

Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80215-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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