When the smoke clears, a group of characters emerges deserving a unique and universal respect.

FIRESTORMERS

ELITE FIREFIGHTING CREW

From the Firestormers series , Vol. 1

An elite troop of wildfire fighters drops in on an inferno with a lieutenant on his first command.

Bowen, who has a previous tightly woven thriller under his belt in Shadow Squadron: Elite Infantry (2013), tenders another taut piece of beyond-the-call-of-duty adventure. Here he introduces a cast that only rarely makes the headlines: fire hotshots, smokejumpers, firestormers, or, as the government bureaucracy would prefer: National Elite Interagency Wildfire Rapid Response Strike Force—the SEALs of the forest fire fight. The story, about battling a blaze in the Klamath National Forest, has moments of melodrama—“The blaze beneath oozed across the landscape with a hideous, gleaming magnificence”—and a rather stiff introduction of the characters’ backgrounds (there is a little too much chest puffing and unexplained psychological injury). But it is also full of good shoptalk for daredevils and gearheads, more excellent visualization (and forest-firefighting wisdom) than melodrama by a factor of five: “Fire flowed over a landscape like water—not downhill, exactly, but seeking out paths of least resistance.” Bowen handles gender issues with a good degree of diplomacy and sophistication but is less successful with race, giving readers little reason to believe that any of his characters are anything other than white. He also introduces an ethical quandary regarding Humboldt marten habitat, making it an issue, not just a pesky indulgence.

When the smoke clears, a group of characters emerges deserving a unique and universal respect. (Adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62370-756-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE REVOLTING REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE ROBO-BOXERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 10

Zipping back and forth in time atop outsized robo–bell bottoms, mad inventor Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) legs his way to center stage in this slightly less-labored continuation of episode 9.

The action commences after a rambling recap and a warning not to laugh or smile on pain of being forced to read Sarah Plain and Tall. Pilkey first sends his peevish protagonist back a short while to save the Earth (destroyed in the previous episode), then on to various prehistoric eras in pursuit of George, Harold and the Captain. It’s all pretty much an excuse for many butt jokes, dashes of off-color humor (“Tippy pressed the button on his Freezy-Beam 4000, causing it to rise from the depths of his Robo-Pants”), a lengthy wordless comic and two tussles in “Flip-o-rama.” Still, the chase kicks off an ice age, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Big Bang (here the Big “Ka-Bloosh!”). It ends with a harrowing glimpse of what George and Harold would become if they decided to go straight. The author also chucks in a poopy-doo-doo song with musical notation (credited to Albert P. Einstein) and plenty of ink-and-wash cartoon illustrations to crank up the ongoing frenzy.

Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-17536-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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