Full measures of swordplay and sorcery, along with a healthy grain or two of salt added to keep things from getting overly...

SEEDS OF REBELLION

From the Beyonders series , Vol. 2

Plenty of hard-fought skirmishes and an entertainingly diverse supporting cast keep this quest fantasy’s middle volume on the right track.

Finding his way back to Lyrian from this world, hero-in-training Jason rejoins fellow “Beyonder” Rachel and several Lyrian allies in a nascent rebellion against evil emperor/wizard Maldor. With imperial troops constantly in hot pursuit, the company survives attacks from giant swamp monsters, blood-craving zombies, plant people and others, as well as encounters with deadly natural hazards, to gather special weapons and allies, reluctant or otherwise. Though surmounting several individual challenges, Jason is largely along for the ride here, but others pick up the slack—particularly Rachel, struggling to control rapidly developing magical talents; Ferrin, a “displacer” with suspect loyalties who can detach while continuing to use hands, eyes or any other part of himself; and Aram, a pipsqueak by day but a giant warrior at night. The author threads glib banter (“Everybody should get to clobber a princess at least once”) and quirky twists into his already-speedy plot to ensure that there’s never a dull moment. He brings the episode to a close with an ominous but refreshingly lucid prophecy that sends cast members off on separate missions to set up the closer’s climactic confrontation.

Full measures of swordplay and sorcery, along with a healthy grain or two of salt added to keep things from getting overly earnest. (Quest fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9794-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories.

FINAL SEASON

A star 12-year-old quarterback has a championship to win, a developing family tragedy to cope with, and a life-changing decision to make.

Barely disguising the autobiographical elements contained here in the wake of his own diagnosis of ALS, former Atlanta Falcons player Green places his protagonist, Ben Redd, in a football family and on an upstate New York team coached by his dad and two older brothers—all former gridiron stars themselves. Ben’s anticipation as he looks forward to a season that will be capped by a game against archrival Penn Yan battles with his terror as he watches his father’s NFL injuries come home to roost in slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, and, eventually, a frantic trip to the hospital for an emergency tracheotomy. But as Ben’s parents, both iron willed, clash over whether he should be allowed to follow the family career path (and one of his brothers even announces that none of his kids will ever play), the sport’s allure comes through in a series of exciting clashes, with Ben and wonderfully hard-nosed new teammate, Thea Jean, leading the on-field heroics on the way to a last-yard, smash-mouth finale that leaves him dazed and exultant, with a broken finger, a probable concussion…and a choice of futures. Though the cast is mostly male and mostly White, between them, Thea and Ben’s mom add strong female representation.

An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-248595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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