Hot-glue–gun fans will barely need the story that surrounds this new set of do-it-yourself gadget projects, but the...

SECRET AGENT GADGET BATTLE

From the Nick and Tesla series , Vol. 3

 

Determined to uncover the identity of the secret agent who seems to be right inside their uncle Newt’s house with them, 11-year-old twins Nick and Tesla construct a variety of spy-revealing gadgets in this third of an ongoing mystery-and-how-to series. When an unfinished phone message from their mother reveals that there is someone nearby they can’t trust—and the message is suddenly erased—Nick and Tesla begin to see spies everywhere. Is it Oli, Uncle Newt’s new apprentice, who’s obviously not from Australia? Is it Skip, the exterminator from Verminator Pest Control, or Ethel and Gladys from Maids-to-Order? All these strangers are suspiciously hanging around the house where Uncle Newt is supposed to be keeping them safe while their parents are away on a shadowy mission. The inventive twins construct a fingerprint finder, alarm, spy camera and code wheels to use with their friends Silas and DeMarco, who help their investigations. Even Uncle Newt joins in at the end to distract the discovered evildoers with his mashed-banana–filled balloon weaponry. Instructions and diagrams are provided so that readers can do the same. Fast-paced, suspenseful and enlivened with grayscale illustrations, this is appealing middle-grade reading.

Hot-glue–gun fans will barely need the story that surrounds this new set of do-it-yourself gadget projects, but the continuing mystery will keep readers wanting more . (Adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59474-676-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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