“Freakity freaking freakiness!” (to quote Carlos) on a high and gleeful level.

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MUTANT MANTIS LUNCH LADIES!

From the Monstertown Mystery series , Vol. 2

Seasoned fourth-grade monster hunters Carlos and Benny find heaping helpings of horror in the lunchroom.

Cued by a spectacular transformation on the lenticular cover, the sudden replacement of Monterrosa Elementary’s formerly motherly lunch ladies with thinly disguised giant praying mantises is just the beginning of disturbing changes. It seems that while the boys are now getting all the fattening fast food they can handle, the formerly well-adjusted girls, even monster-hunting ally Tina, are being fed a revolting glop made from bugs that has them mouthing off, becoming physically aggressive, and eyeing boys—hungrily. Further spurred by the disappearances of several younger (male) students, the sleuths enlist the help of gung-ho comics-store owner (and wheelchair-using Samoan ex-wrestler) Mrs. Tamasese in a desperate ploy to expose the culinary cabal. Along with trotting in a cast of exemplary diversity (in a departure, Latino Carlos narrates, while white boy Benny acts as best pal), Hale spins the scenario in such wild and hilarious directions that even the climactic release of whole garbage bags full of roaches in the crowded lunchroom isn’t the grossest thing that happens. By the end, though, all is set more or less right amid discussions of gender expectations and claims of mass hallucinations.

“Freakity freaking freakiness!” (to quote Carlos) on a high and gleeful level. (Horror. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-1324-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Another epic outing in a graphic hybrid series that continues not just to push the envelope, but tear it to shreds.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE SENSATIONAL SAGA OF SIR STINKS-A-LOT

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 12

Pranksters George and Harold face the deadliest challenge of their checkered careers: a supersmart, superstrong gym teacher.

With the avowed aim of enticing an audience of “grouchy old people” to the Waistband Warrior’s latest exploit, Pilkey promises “references to health care, gardening, Bob Evans restaurants, hard candies, FOX News, and gentle-yet-effective laxatives.” He delivers, too. But lest fans of the Hanes-clad hero fret, he also stirs in plenty of fart jokes, brain-melting puns, and Flip-O-Rama throwdowns. After a meteorite transforms Mr. Meaner into a mad genius (evil, of course, because “as everyone knows, most gym teachers are inherently evil”) and he concocts a brown gas that turns children into blindly obedient homework machines, George and Harold travel into the future to enlist aid from their presumably immune adult selves. Temporarily leaving mates and children (of diverse sexes, both) behind, Old George and Old Harold come to the rescue. But Meaner has a robot suit (of course he has a robot suit), and he not only beats down the oldsters, but is only fazed for a moment when Capt. Underpants himself comes to deliver a kick to the crotch. Fortunately, gym teachers, “like toddlers,” will put anything in their mouths—so an ingestion of soda pop and Mentos at last spells doom, or more accurately: “CHeffGoal-D’BLOOOM!”

Another epic outing in a graphic hybrid series that continues not just to push the envelope, but tear it to shreds. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-50492-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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A decent start to a silly sci-fi series.

ALIEN SUPERSTAR

From the Alien Superstar series , Vol. 1

An extraterrestrial teen refugee becomes a Hollywood star.

Citizen Short Nose, a 13-year-old, blue-skinned, six-eyed, bipedal ET, has left his home world in an effort to escape the authoritarian forces that reign there. The teen runaway lands his spacecraft in the middle of Universal Studios and easily blends in among the tourists and actors in movie costumes. Citizen Short Nose quickly changes his name to Buddy C. Burger and befriends Luis Rivera, an 18-year-old Latinx actor who moonlights as Frankenstein on the Universal lot. Inspired to be an actor by his grandmother Wrinkle’s love of Earth culture, Buddy lands a gig on Oddball Academy, playing (of course) an alien from another world. On set, Buddy befriends Cassidy Cambridge, the brown-skinned teen star of the show. Buddy balances keeping his true identity secret (everyone just assumes he’s wearing an alien costume) with becoming an overnight sensation. The book is efficiently written, moving the story forward so quickly that readers won’t have time to think too hard about the bizarre circumstances necessary for the whole thing to work. This series opener’s big problem is the ending: The story just stops. Characters are established and plot mechanics are put together, but the book basically trusts readers to show up for the next installment. Those enamored with Hollywood gags and sci-fi plot boiling will probably be engaged enough to do so.

A decent start to a silly sci-fi series. (Science fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3369-7

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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