The hero is really the entire family in this somewhat labored but cockle-warming series kickoff.

THE PRIZEWINNERS OF PIEDMONT PLACE

From the Prizewinners of Piedmont Place series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Cal resorts to extreme measures to rope his reluctant family into taking a chance to win a shopping spree in the local megastore.

Strong family ties and social-class contrasts lie at the center of this sitcom-style farce. Eyes firmly fixed on a video-game system that is well beyond his struggling family’s reach, Cal Talaska responds to the contest announcement with a series of stratagems that turn his close but initially indifferent clan into a motivated team. The Talaskas need all the moxie they can summon. Their main rivals as the contest goes through multiple tricky elimination rounds turn out to be the Wylots—arrogant, upper-crust owners of the factory where Mr. Talaska is employed as an accountant—and they’re not at all shy about playing mind games, uttering thinly veiled threats, or out-and-out cheating. Doyle leans hard on the moral divide by thoroughly demonizing the Wylots while casting the Talaskas as a caring, mutually supportive family that laughs as heartily as it pulls together. He does rather overplay the feel-good ending, but their win is well-deserved. In quickly sketched ink-and-wash illustrations, Jack portrays them as biracial (Mr. Talaska is the darker parent), though their diverse skin tones on the full-color cover even out in the interior images.

The hero is really the entire family in this somewhat labored but cockle-warming series kickoff. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-52177-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE REVOLTING REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE ROBO-BOXERS

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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