Better in its parts than its whole—but even second-drawer Jinks tops the general run.

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THE LAST BOGLER

From the How to Catch a Bogle series , Vol. 3

Weary “Go-Devil Man” Alfred Bunce and his uncertain apprentice, Ned, face a seemingly overwhelming plague of child-eating bogles in this busy trilogy closer.

In what amounts to a wrap-up volume livened by gross bits, Jinks sends her bogle hunters—with help from the ad hoc Committee for the Regulation of Subterranean Anomalies—into Victorian London’s dark nooks and noisome sewers after a series of shadowy menaces. She also sets ex-apprentices Birdie and Jem on to careers in the theater, trots in a country witch to explain how to mass-produce bogle-killing magical spears, consigns vicious butcher/crime lord Salty Jack to a suitably brutal fate, and ties off various other loose ends. Though en masse the darksome creatures seem less hideously menacing than the rare and terrifying haunts of previous volumes, here their toothy, tentacled bodies do slither chillingly enough into view and explode with satisfying violence, “like a gigantic pimple,” when speared. (One particularly memorable battle takes place in a privy.) Set pieces notwithstanding, though, the climax turns to more of an anticlimax as the growing crisis is averted via an authorial rationale that even younger readers may find hard to buy. An epilogue leaves the majors married or nearly married and Bunce in happy retirement.

Better in its parts than its whole—but even second-drawer Jinks tops the general run. (map, glossary of slang) (Historical fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-08696-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

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 MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

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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