A dynamic and informative time-travel fantasy with relatable young characters.



From the Eye of Ra series , Vol. 2

In Gartner’s middle-grade sequel, two siblings are catapulted to ancient Rome, tasked with uniting sworn enemies.

Thankful that their unexpected sojourn in ancient Egypt is behind them—as recounted in The Eye of Ra (2019)—12-year-old Sarah and her brother, John, who’s a few years younger,don’t anticipate anything out of the ordinary when they visit the Smithsonian Insitutition in Washington, D.C., to see a special exhibition on the Roman Empire. They certainly don’t expect to encounter Aten, the time-traveling Egyptian tomb robber from their previous adventure. Aten, having “seen the light of Ra,” tells them it’s the will of “the gods” that the siblings must use John’s key to the past—a mystical Eye of Ra pendant—and travel to ancient Rome to bring together Roman emperor Constantius and Crocus, the leader of the Germanic Alemanni, as allies. If they fail, Aten says, “the world as you know it is in grave danger.” Once again, Gartner deftly weaves real-life history into a compelling adventure, offering high-stakes, realistic danger and vivid scene-setting. He also convincingly portrays Sarah’s and John’s emotions along the way. Sarah is shown to be impatient with John’s timidity, and she feels guilty for aspects of the Egypt adventure. Her preadolescent angst confuses John; after all, hadn’t they bonded in Egypt while “dodging cobras and scorpions”? John, however, discovers new confidence in the face of peril that includes a mountain trek, wild animals in an arena, and two mysterious figures, who seem to know all about John’s pendant. (Humorously, a servant marvels at John’s athletic shoes, assuming that he worships Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.) The question of why gods of the ancient world chosen Sarah and John for world-saving missions remains unanswered, but may be tackled in future adventures. At the end of the book, the author writes about his inspirations for the book’s historic characters and setting, separating fact from fiction. Also included is a recipe for libum, the sweet dessert that John and others enjoy during their ancient Rome adventure.

A dynamic and informative time-travel fantasy with relatable young characters.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73415-523-5

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Crescent Vista Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2020

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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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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