Roman’s (The Treasure of Snake Island, 2014, etc.) latest installment in her rollicking pirate picture-book series.

The author opens her story with a vivid rendition of a parched pirate crew that’s stranded near an island without any juice boxes, rivers or ponds to drink from. Crankiness and blaming commence, with Mongo the monkey blaming Hallie, the first mate, for their plight, as she brought a thirsty goat on board who drank more than her share. Mongo and some of the others begin to ridicule the goat, making fun of her name and her unusual odor. Hallie and baby Cayla tell the goat that she’s beautiful, but this doesn’t shield the goat from hurt feelings, and a tear rolls down her furry cheek. Captain No Beard arrives and impartially asks for both sides of the story. (Poor Fribbet the frog is very upset because he doesn’t want to have to choose sides.) Captain No Beard, after offering his signature lament, that “[b]eing a captain is hard work,” climbs down the mast and instructs all of them to say one nice thing about themselves, as well as one thing they don’t like. As the crew members take turns, they begin to understand no one is perfect but that doesn’t detract from how amazing each one is. They also realize that just because someone is different it doesn’t make that individual any less special. Apologies, handshakes, paw-shakes and hoof-shakes ensue, and Roman drives home the lesson when the goat figures out a coconut-y solution to their thirst. The author doesn’t disappoint in her latest pirate tale, once again seamlessly weaving wonderful life lessons for children into a fun adventure story among friends. The illustrations are dynamic and full of emotion, leaping off the pages with their charm, humor and energy. The affection among the crew is evident, even when things get a little heated. Here, Roman’s talent shines, as she shows that friendship is an evolving relationship that ebbs and flows—and flourishes with a little bit of understanding.

Another heartwarming pirate story from Roman.

Pub Date: May 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1492162698

Page Count: 48

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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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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