THE GLASS TOWN GAME

An absolute must for fans, of course; but even readers who’ve never heard of Heathcliff will be captivated from the first...

In a middle-grade fantasy reminiscent of beloved tales from Edward Eager and Pamela Dean, the imaginary realms of the Brontë juvenilia come to wondrous life.

“Once, four children called Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell lived all together in a village called Haworth”—but the never-surnamed protagonists don’t remain in their Yorkshire moors for long. Instead of escorting the two oldest girls to their dreaded School, the siblings are whisked off to Glass Town, where, as Charlotte dryly observes, “we’re only in an insane, upside-down world populated by our toys, our stories, and Napoleon riding on a giant chicken on fire.” Valente seizes this irresistible premise and careens off merrily, in gorgeous, coruscating prose spangled with groanworthy puns, extravagant metaphors, whimsical imagery, literary nods, and historical references. Beyond the sly allusions, sufficient to delight the most devoted Brontë-phile, it is the vivid, achingly real, personalities—brilliant, bossy Charlotte; wild, passionate Emily; gentle, perceptive Anne; and bullying, insecure Branwell—that compel attention. Unfolding against a background of loss and fear, their madcap fairy-tale adventures deepen into a heartbreaking keen of brutality and grief, at the last transposing into an exhilarating, bittersweet paean to identity, agency, and (inevitably) the power of storytelling. (Illustrations not seen.)

An absolute must for fans, of course; but even readers who’ve never heard of Heathcliff will be captivated from the first page to the last. (Fantasy. 10-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7696-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

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

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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