Middle-grade readers will be carried along by the buoyancy of the writing, the skillful design, and the humor on almost...

HATCHED

From the Enchanted Files series , Vol. 2

The same team who introduced the Enchanted Realm in Diary of a Mad Brownie (2015; now retitled Cursed) presents a second go-round for the delectation of middle-grade fantasy readers.

Gerald Overflight, a griffin, has run away from home, driven by his siblings’ constant bullying and, the final blow, his father’s true feelings about him. He flies off, accompanied by his teacher, the tricky Master Abelard, who has his own reasons for breaking a boatload of the Realm’s rules. Readers will delight in the tribulations endured by this sensitive griffin, his new friend, the human Bradley Ashango, and the assortment of creatures who, willy-nilly, are sucked into the matrix of their activities. The strength of this story is in showing Gerald’s and Brad’s parallel growth, a slow process that solidly underpins the hilarious (occasionally slapstick) story. Readers learn what’s going on through the dark-skinned Brad’s journal, Gerald’s diary, Master Abelard’s notebook, newspaper articles, and various documents that shed light on both cultures, human and mythic. Most of the satire provides blameless amusement with the exception of a few cheap shots at political correctness in a list of “Forbidden Topics at the University Enchantica.”

Middle-grade readers will be carried along by the buoyancy of the writing, the skillful design, and the humor on almost every page. Egg-ceptionally funny! (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-39255-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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