Plausible? Maybe not. A fun adventure story for children? Definitely.


The Heroes of Tortoisetown

Koekemoer’s debut children’s book introduces a scrappy hero and his best friend, an inanimate bike.

Sparrow Spencer, a South African schoolboy, has few companions save his beloved oversized bicycle, Jumbo, and Lyla, a schoolmate in delicate health. After Sparrow loses his father to an automobile accident, his mother fears cars and forbids her son to go near the highway bordering their Tortoisetown home. There’s more than enough to keep Sparrow and his imagination occupied, though. He helps Uncle Jacob, a grocer, with deliveries, rides Jumbo and dreams of participating in the Tour of South Africa, a major cycling event that passes through Tortoisetown and Marvel City. A major fuel shortage—even school is suspended—launches Sparrow from deliveryboy to sought-after bicycle courier. Jumbo gains a cart, fashioned by Uncle Jacob, and Sparrow gains a business helping neighbors transport goods. After Lyla falls ill, Sparrow attempts to transport her—his most precious cargo—to the hospital for much-needed medical care. Readers will be rooting for Sparrow and his dreams of a life of cycling as he evolves from the son of a cautious single mother to a hero charged with saving Lyla’s life. Koekemoer cleverly places this trajectory against the backdrop of the dangerous highway as well as the course of his beloved Tour of South Africa. This sets the stage for his own epic endurance race ending in Marvel City, home to the hospital and a bike shop that offers cycling equipment and perhaps a chance for Sparrow to capture his dream. Though enlivened by colorful illustrations that show off the cycling speed of the fast-paced narrative, the story requires a certain suspension of disbelief: Even with a fuel shortage, why would Lyla’s parents entrust their daughter’s medical care and stewardship solely to a young bicyclist?

Plausible? Maybe not. A fun adventure story for children? Definitely. 

Pub Date: April 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1483990439

Page Count: 40

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2013

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Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger.


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 6

The monster-fighting gang from Wakefield departs on a post-apocalyptic road trip.

In this sixth installment of the heavily illustrated, Netflix-adapted series, quirky Jack Sullivan and his friends June, Quint, and Dirk finally leave their creature-ridden town in search of the ultimate baddie, Thrull, who previously deceived them. The quartet takes their tricked-out ride (an armored RV named Bad Mama) onto the open road (with Jack’s Zombie Squad in tow) to find the Outpost, where they believe a certain monster will be able to give them the location of the evil Tower where they believe Thrull now resides. Of course, the journey is littered with all kinds of nightmarish beasts and pitfalls (including an epic water park battle and slime-dripping baby monster), but the kids persist, armed with their endless gadgets and quick thinking. As the group races toward Thrull, the action culminates with an achingly tantalizing cliffhanger; expect audible groans and vociferous demands for the next installment. Fans of this series will revel in this fast-paced escapade with its recognizable black-and-white illustrations and trademark humor. Readers new to the series or those who are only familiar with the animated show may be a bit put off by this later volume that relies heavily on its own language of monsters and weapons. Jack, June, and Dirk are light-skinned; Quint is dark-skinned.

Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger. (Graphic fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984835-34-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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