Another victory on the high seas for Roman.

Captain No Beard


Roman’s (Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience: A Captain No Beard Story, 2013) latest adventure about Captain No Beard and his band of plucky pirates tackles the issue of stranger danger.

Captain No Beard is good-naturedly cranky about the fact that he’s babysitting his new cabin girl, Cayla, while trying to enjoy a day on the high seas. Roman’s color illustrations are hilarious and animated, showcasing the great horror of the crew when Cayla almost tips over the edge of the boat before Captain No Beard rescues her by grabbing her diaper. First mate Hallie cheerfully stands up to Captain No Beard’s complaints about Cayla, seeing only great fun in having a baby on board. Her defense of Cayla is a good reminder to kids that it’s OK to stand up for what’s right, including defending those who are being picked on, even when dealing with people in positions of power. The debate over Cayla is forgotten when Captain No Beard and the others notice a dark, scary ship approaching at high speed. The crew of the incoming ship shouts over the wind, innocently claiming to be lost and in need of directions. Captain No Beard’s crew quickly goes into a huddle, some of them having heard rumors about the approaching ship, with its troublemaking first mate, Crab Cakes, and the mean captain, Shark Bait. Clever humor abounds, such as when Fribbet the Frog declares that he does not like crab cakes because “they are very messy,” not realizing that the Crab Cakes in question is actually the first mate. The crew agrees that although they have heard of the approaching crew, they do not truly know them. First mate Hallie announces, “We certainly don’t speak to people we don’t know. And we never approach animals without permission.” Hearty agreement reverberates, and Captain No Beard steers his vessel away from the approaching ship…but they cannot escape! At least not until a great odor wafting from Cayla’s diaper sends the enemy scurrying for cover in an unexpected but hilarious conclusion to the story. The delivery of the message and the content is first-rate, and the twist at the end will leave readers laughing out loud and ready for the next book in the series.

Another victory on the high seas for Roman.

Pub Date: May 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1480177222

Page Count: 32

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2013

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


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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