From the A Grandma Gang Mystery series , Vol. 2

A clever, endearing cast headlines this pleasantly modest, entertaining detective story.

Two young siblings, their grandmother, and her pals put their heads together to track down pet kidnappers in Pepe’s middle-grade series mystery.

Fifth grader Mary Grace and her little brother, Donny, who has Down syndrome, live on a ranch with their doting grandparents while their parents are away. They love coming home each day to the happy greetings of cockapoo Krug and collie puppy Kansas. So it’s an understandable shock when a quick trip to the grocery store ends with the dogs going missing. Grandma Cathy spots a coat hanger near her car, suggesting that someone broke into the vehicle and took Krug and Kansas away. As it turns out, there have been several reports of “dognappings” in the area. Later, she a receives a call in during which the abductors promise to let the pooches go if they receive a ransom of $200. However, clever Mary Grace is determined to unmask the culprits. She gathers clues with Donny and the Grandma Gang, which consists of Cathy and her two longtime friends La Shana Jackson and Elizabeth Blythe, who’ve previously helped the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s office close cases. They all comb the scene of the dognapping, talk to several possible witnesses, and check out such local spots as the animal shelter. They also meet kindhearted, accommodating folk along the way who join them in unraveling the mystery. The gang’s cop pal, Deputy Juan, has too heavy of a workload to lend assistance, so it’s up to the amateur detectives to get Krug, Kansas, and other kidnapped dogs home safely.

Pepe’s short novel is consistently pleasant and good-natured in tone. Donny, for example, displays a cheeriness that’s infectious; he often hugs people, even those he’s just met, and he has no doubt whatsoever that they’ll all reunite with their four-legged family members. Although the Grandma Gang and other characters do their parts, Mary Grace proves herself a true bloodhound, sniffing out potential evidence, considering the dognappers’ possible motives beyond cash and the logistics of feeding and caring for abducted pets. The author painstakingly details new and returning characters without slowing down the brisk narrative. Standouts among the players include Papa Steve, who shares his grandson Donny’s bright outlook, and Elizabeth of the Grandma Gang, who teaches and practices karate. Even the dogs have notably contrasting personalities; fiercely loyal Krug is much older than Kansas, who enthusiastically greets people with dog kisses.The mystery will certainly appeal to young readers; there’s no question as to how Mary Grace reaches each deduction or how she digs up clues, including particulars on the dognappers and the vehicle they’re driving. However, the investigation make this a diverting whodunit for readers of all ages. This lighthearted story is consistently encouraging; Cathy and her fellow adults never fail to compliment Mary Grace and Donny for their contributions and ideas. There’s also a general acceptance that the people snatching the dogs are treating them as any good dog lover would. A clever, endearing cast headlines this pleasantly modest, entertaining detective story.

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-08-804227-4

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Santa Rita Hills Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2022


From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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