A dark action-adventure-fantasy with surprising heart.

BATTLE OF THE BEASTS

From the House of Secrets series , Vol. 2

House of Secrets’ (2013) happy ending gives way to new problems for the Walker children, both in reality and in writer-wizard Denver Kristoff’s pulpy genre-book worlds.

While the Walkers appear to be living large with the $10,000,000 wished for by Eleanor at the end of their last adventure, their new life is neither happy nor stable. Brendan struggles to fit in at his new elite private school. Cordelia fits in fine—thrives even—but experiences strange symptoms (she always feels very cold, for instance), hinting at a threat left over from their first adventure. Eleanor misses the camaraderie and closeness among the siblings when they had to work together. Worst, their father’s strange actions and decisions put their whole family at risk. But as the Wind Witch was banished and not eliminated, soon she returns and casts the children back into book worlds, still in pursuit of the magic book—but this time getting out will be harder. They end up tangling with gladiators, Nazis, cyborgs and more in a storyline that, despite its high levels of action, takes care to highlight the characters’ inner turmoil. What does it mean to fit in? Is the book world preferable to their crumbling reality? The prose is occasionally jumpy and chaotic, but the content always entertains. This collaboration with Columbus is Vizzini’s (1981-2013) final book; the future of the projected trilogy is unclear.

A dark action-adventure-fantasy with surprising heart. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-219249-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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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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