A WORLD WITHOUT HEROES

From the Beyonders series , Vol. 1

Inventive trials and supporting characters boost this otherwise standard-issue quest fantasy. Middle-schooler Jason falls through a zoo hippo’s mouth into Lyrian, a land ruled by a wizard named Maldor, whose only weakness is a magical Word that will unmake him. Each of that Word’s six syllables are hidden behind different defenses, and Jason and sidekick Rachel—a lost Beyonder like him, who proves to be just as intrepid and at least as pig-stubborn—face a series of trials. There is a lake in which anything that stops moving for even an instant gets sucked down, a tree (in the middle of a swamp well-stocked with giant carnivorous toads) that robs interlopers of their short-term memories, a deadly political battle waged with riddles and other tests. Along with such allies as a gent who can detach and reattach any of his body parts (including his head) at will and a warrior who gets to start over as a 20-year-old any time he’s killed, Mull provides his young protagonists with a foe as genuinely clever as he is powerful and rescues an ambling plot with a devastating climactic twist. Readers fond of fantasies that don’t take themselves too seriously will enjoy this trilogy opener. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9792-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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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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Solid, authentic basketball action with plenty of food for thought, colored with elements of fantasy.

TRAINING CAMP

From the Wizenard series , Vol. 1

A former NBA superstar is part of a writing duo that combines basketball and magic to tell the story of a struggling inner-city team.

Twelve-year-old Rain treasures the Fairwood Community Center and his team, the West Bottom Badgers. Although it is run-down, the walls hung with tattered banners, for Rain, the gym represents his best chance of becoming a success. The team owner, Freddy, has also brought in a new coach, professor Rolabi Wizenard, with a decidedly different way of running things. He seems to speak in riddles and use magic—the appearance of a tiger to assist in a drill, for example. As Rain contemplates life, he hears Rolabi in his head, challenging his fears and his thoughts about himself. Teammate Alfie, aka Twig, is from a comfortable suburban family, and some of the guys never let him forget it. Mercilessly teased, he has no one to confide in—but he might be the one to unlock the secret behind their new coach. The novel is unusual in structure and plot as readers experience the same incidents portrayed through different perspectives, each revealing another layer of the story. The end of training camp and the approach of actual games concludes the novel, leaving a cliffhanger for the next volume. Physical descriptions are limited, but most major characters are brown-skinned.

Solid, authentic basketball action with plenty of food for thought, colored with elements of fantasy. (Sports fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949520-01-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

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