A familiar-feeling series kickoff.



From the Toy Academy series , Vol. 1

“[I]t’s hard to be yourself when you don’t know what you are.”

Grumbolt wakes up in a trash can next to a used doll pattern from the U Can Sew company and a complaint letter from an 8-year-old who’d tried to use the pattern and failed. She’d created something with arms of two different lengths, two different ears, and a silly expression. Grumbolt feels sorry for that doll until he realizes he is it! He sets out to find a child to play with. After a run-in with a live cat, he meets OmniBus Squared, who’s recruiting for Cmdr. Hedgehog’s Toy Academy. Grumbolt wants to learn to be a better toy, so he convinces OmniBus to take him. Grumbolt’s declared a plush (rather than collectible, action, or educational) and enrolls in Tea Parties 101 and Introduction to Dress-up. He’s a failure, but he keeps trying. Then Cmdr. Hedgehog’s arm is stolen; surely the culprit is from the Evil Toy Academy. Can Grumbolt help find it and succeed in school? Film and comic-book writer Lynch’s prose debut is entertaining enough (Taylor’s Saturday-morning-cartoon illustrations help) but no great innovation. This chapter book is best read together because, like the author’s movies (The Secret Life of Pets and Minions), it’s sprinkled with fairly sophisticated jokes for caregivers to enjoy as well as slapstick goofiness for the kids.

A familiar-feeling series kickoff. (Fantasy. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-14845-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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Returning fans will be happy to see their friends, but this outing's unlikely to win them new ones.


From the The Binder of Doom series , Vol. 2

In the second installment of the Binder of Doom series, readers will reconnect with Alexander Bopp, who leads the Super Secret Monster Patrol, a group of mutant children who protect the citizens of their beloved town of Stermont.

His friends Nikki and Rip rejoin him to add new monsters and adventures to their ever growing binder of monsters. As in series opener Brute-Cake (2019), Alexander and his friends attend the local library’s summer program, this time for “maker-camp.” They are assigned a Maker Challenge, in which each camper is to “make a machine that performs a helpful task”; meanwhile, mechanical equipment is being stolen all over Stermont. Unfortunately, the pacing and focus of the book hop all over the place. The titular boa constructor (a two-headed maker-minded snake and the culprit behind the thefts) is but one of many monsters introduced here, appearing more than two-thirds of the way through the story—just after the Machine Share-Time concludes the maker-camp plotline. (Rip’s “most dangerous” invention does come in handy at the climax.) The grayscale illustrations add visuals that will keep early readers engaged despite the erratic storyline; they depict Alexander with dark skin and puffy hair and Nikki and Rip with light skin. Monster trading cards are interleaved with the story.

Returning fans will be happy to see their friends, but this outing's unlikely to win them new ones. (Paranormal adventure. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-31469-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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More sentimental even than Staake’s earlier My Pet Book (2014), but the shiny metaphor is well-intentioned and the nod to...


A lifelong quest slowly transforms a stolidly incurious Brooklyn lad into an educated, well-traveled geezer.

A dedicated nonreader, young Isaac Gutenberg turns up his nose at the tantalizing facts his book-loving parents dangle before him until a mysterious little old lady tells him about a legendary volume that not only contains the answers to every question ever asked, but when opened “turns to solid gold.” As years pass and Isaac eagerly riffles through every book he finds, his unalloyed greed changes to curiosity: “Why don’t the pyramids have windows?” “Who invented pizza?” “How did the number eight get its name?” After scouring the world’s book shelves, he ultimately comes to realize that the search itself has given him “a long life filled with wonder.” Bronze-toned, retro-style views of New York, India, and other locales are bookended between 1935 and present-day visits to idealized but recognizable versions of the New York Public Library’s Main Reading Room. There (in an act that would in real life get him ejected if not arrested), old Isaac sidles up to an unattended young patron to pass on the glittering legend. Isaac and most of the other figures are white, but Staake diversifies the skin tones of street crowds and readers in the overseas and later scenes.

More sentimental even than Staake’s earlier My Pet Book (2014), but the shiny metaphor is well-intentioned and the nod to libraries is well-taken. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-51077-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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