A great choice for reluctant readers as well as fans of Rick Riordan and the Artemis Fowl books.

SAFE HARBOR

From the Lost Tribes series , Vol. 2

Ben, his sister, April, and their friends Grace, Carlos, and Serise return in this sequel to The Lost Tribes (2015).

The kids have discovered their parents’ secret: they only look human—they’re actually ETs. Setting a rollicking pace, the book takes them to the Bermuda Triangle and undersea Atlantis before delivering them to the secret underground space station, Safe Harbor. The kids begin training with their respective tribes (which roughly correspond to Africans, Asians, Meso-Americans, and Native Americans) but are bored much of the time: they want to help prevent the imminent destruction of Earth and search for their missing parents. The result is unsanctioned adventures that sometimes result in gains for the kids…but other times end in tragedy. Taylor-Butler doesn’t pull any punches, and Ben—whose impetuousness results in the death of another tribe member—is left to deal with the consequences of his actions. He has help, but the narrative allows him to feel the weight of his poor decisions. Meanwhile, the others try to adjust to having new tribes, new identities, and no parents. A secret revealed, along with unsolved mysteries, will leave readers eager for the third installment. While it’s overtidy that the protagonists’ alien tribes align so clearly with diverse Earth cultures, the solid character development, strong writing, and action will appeal to sci-fi and adventure-story readers alike.

A great choice for reluctant readers as well as fans of Rick Riordan and the Artemis Fowl books. (Science fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9970513-6-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Move Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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