That death is the only surprise in this routine bildungsroman.


From the Tales of Fontania series , Vol. 2

Else gathers a pile of well-seasoned fantasy kindling but fails to light it up in this uninspired sequel to the effervescent The Traveling Restaurant (2012).

An infant in the opener but now 12, Queen Sibilla of Fontania impulsively disguises herself as a boy and runs away with disaffected odd-jobs boy Hodie. Chaperoned by an unusually helpful squirrel and former pirate/cook Cpl. Murgott, the two land in the subterranean capital of Um’binnia just as its blustering emperor, Prowdd’hon, declares war on Fontania. Meanwhile, the land’s magnificent Dragon-eagles are being captured or dying, and with them will disappear all magic unless certain lost Ties are recovered and used in some unspecified way. Else also tucks in colorful elements, from flying passenger trains and giant poisonous Ocean Toads to bumbling Um’binnian rebels led by a woman (also in male disguise). Despite these small pleasures, her plot is too driven by conveniently overheard conversations and dependably timely distractions or rescues to develop any real suspense. Moreover, the cast is made up of the usual stock suspects, and as a point-of-view character, Hodie makes a cold fish—sullen, inarticulate and only briefly moved by meeting his long-missing (aristocratic, natch) mother or, later, seeing the devoted servant who had raised him as a son murdered before his eyes.

That death is the only surprise in this routine bildungsroman. (endpaper map) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-8775-7949-3

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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


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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Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 10

Zipping back and forth in time atop outsized robo–bell bottoms, mad inventor Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) legs his way to center stage in this slightly less-labored continuation of episode 9.

The action commences after a rambling recap and a warning not to laugh or smile on pain of being forced to read Sarah Plain and Tall. Pilkey first sends his peevish protagonist back a short while to save the Earth (destroyed in the previous episode), then on to various prehistoric eras in pursuit of George, Harold and the Captain. It’s all pretty much an excuse for many butt jokes, dashes of off-color humor (“Tippy pressed the button on his Freezy-Beam 4000, causing it to rise from the depths of his Robo-Pants”), a lengthy wordless comic and two tussles in “Flip-o-rama.” Still, the chase kicks off an ice age, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Big Bang (here the Big “Ka-Bloosh!”). It ends with a harrowing glimpse of what George and Harold would become if they decided to go straight. The author also chucks in a poopy-doo-doo song with musical notation (credited to Albert P. Einstein) and plenty of ink-and-wash cartoon illustrations to crank up the ongoing frenzy.

Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-17536-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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