Bland pirate burlesque with plenty of standard-issue buckling of swash—but dead in the water with regard to story arc, in...



From the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series , Vol. 2

Fledgling pirate captain Hilary bravely engages in nonpiratical behavior to rescue kidnapped friends and expose chicanery in high places.

The sudden disappearances of freelance pirate Jasper Fletcher, husband of her ex-governess, Eloise Greyson, and aging Enchantress Eugenia Pimm prompt Hilary and her motley crew to set off on a search. They do this in the face of ominous threats from a mysterious band of “Mutineers” and repeated official warnings from the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates that she’d better shape up (piratically speaking) or lose her cutlass and membership card. Carlson stocks her cast with Disney-style buccaneers (“Arr!” one growls. “Be ye needin’ a hand, matey? I’m afraid I’ve only got the one”), snooty aristocrats, silly police inspectors and like fodder for comical contretemps. She charts for her protagonist a zigzag course from one set piece to the next toward a climactic society ball–cum–pirate melee (totally bloodless). Most of the many inserted letters, documents, gossipy news items and general announcements add little beyond visual variety to the narrative, though passages from the memoirs of Hilary’s vain, talking gargoyle sidekick do supply helpful recaps of the opening episode’s events.

Bland pirate burlesque with plenty of standard-issue buckling of swash—but dead in the water with regard to story arc, in just its second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-219436-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.


The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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