Plot-driven but weighed down by heavy-handed moralizing.


From the Dungeoneer Adventures series , Vol. 1

A multispecies squad of student explorers escapes numerous threats to life and limb in the trackless Fungal Jungle.

Switching to a hybrid format and aiming at younger readers, the creators of the Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo graphic novel series craft a ponderously didactic adventure in which new arrival Coop Cooperson demonstrates leadership qualities by mediating conflicts and keeping his nonhuman Dungeon Academy classmates together and on task in between brushes with toothy monsters and other narrow squeaks. The cast includes lots of monsters, not to mention a student body composed of imps, goblins, bugbears, and similar folk with silly names like Oggie Twinkelbark or Zeek Barfolamule Ghoulihan (the requisite bully). The tale takes a dismally familiar turn, however, when Coop, who reads as White, leads his team into an ambush by a reclusive tribe of small mushroom people who speak stilted English, at first threaten to cook and eat him, then end up kneeling before their savior after he slays a monstrous spider that was threatening them, a plot twist that unfortunately evokes racist tropes. (Rather than stay and be their god king, though, he nobly elects to return with his team to the academy and get a coveted Junior Dungeoneer badge.) The narrative passages, with layout designed to be accessible to new chapter book readers, are liberally strewn with grayscale cartoon scenes that offer frantic action and reaction shots as well as additional dialogue.

Plot-driven but weighed down by heavy-handed moralizing. (Illustrated fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66591-069-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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Dizzyingly silly.


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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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.


Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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