An impressive debut series opener.

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AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS

From the Supernatural Investigations series , Vol. 1

A 13-year-old girl learns she’s an all-powerful magician and faces trials as she seeks her missing brother.

Amari Peters is tired—tired of being belittled and dismissed at her rich private school, where she is bullied for being poor and Black. On the last day of school—fueled by emotions connected to her brother Quinton’s disappearance—Amari loses her cool, costing her the scholarship she needs. Next, a mysterious man shows up with news that Quinton has sent her a Broaden Your Horizons kit. Inside she finds items that open her eyes to a secret supernatural world, one that must remain hidden because people’s fear of things they don’t understand too often turns into hatred. Amari is invited to a magical training camp hosted by the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, which her mom believes is the same leadership program Quinton attended that helped him gain full-ride scholarships to Ivy League colleges. There, she discovers that she’s a magician, with powers that are illegal. Amari’s single-minded intent on finding Quinton leads her on the path to becoming a Junior Agent. With the help of those she meets along the way, Amari makes shocking discoveries and finds the power to overcome. The author weaves magical whimsy with honest, realistically portrayed circumstances, allowing Amari’s literal #BlackGirlMagic to shine even when she doesn’t believe in herself. This timely, energetic, first-person narrative moves quickly with clear descriptions, a thrilling buildup, and strong messages about profiling.

An impressive debut series opener. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297516-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

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-mew-sing fare for readers who sometimes feel like fraidycats themselves.

SCAREDY CAT

Two shelter cats take on a mysterious puss with weird powers who is terrorizing the feline community.

Hardly have timorous (and aptly named) Poop and her sophisticated buddy, Pasha, been brought home by their new “human beans” for a two-week trial than they are accosted by fiery-eyed Scaredy Cat, utterly trashing the kitchen with a click of his claws and, hissing that he’s in charge of the neighborhood, threatening that if they don’t act like proper cats—disdaining ordinary cat food and any summons (they are not dogs, after all), clawing the furniture instead of the scratching post, and showing like “cattitude”—it’ll be back to the shelter for them. Will Poop and Pasha prove to be fraidycats or flee to the cowed clowder of homeless cats hiding from the bully in the nearby woods? Nope, they are made of sterner stuff and resolutely set out to enlist feline allies in a “quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of purrs!” Cast into a gazillion very short chapters related by furry narrators Poop and Pasha, who are helpfully depicted in portrait vignettes by Herzog at each chapter’s head, the ensuing adventures test the defiant kitties’ courage (and, in some cases, attention spans) on the way to a spooky but poignant climax set, appropriately enough as it happens, in a pet graveyard.

A-mew-sing fare for readers who sometimes feel like fraidycats themselves. (Adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49443-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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