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CLASH OF THE WORLDS

From the House of Secrets series , Vol. 3

Generally, an enjoyable book with high stakes and a solid ending, despite the mushy middle.

Following the 2013 death of co-author Vizzini, Rylander joins the team for the conclusion to the book-world–hopping House of Secrets series.

Starting immediately where Battle of the Beasts (2015) left off, the Walker children are losing their house (and father) to the family patriarch’s gambling addiction, and their fictional colossus friend, Fat Jagger, has escaped from his book world into their own—and he’s not the only character to cross over. To fix the situation, they need help from an old, dead enemy, but in seeking it, they inadvertently start a zombie apocalypse. In a frantic attempt to repair reality, they return to the pulp-fiction book worlds one more time, in pursuit of three objects that will enable them to permanently seal the realities off from one another before the Wind Witch can lead an army into San Francisco. For a large chunk of this chunky book, the three siblings separate to go after each token, and the constant life-threatening danger (and chapter-ending cliffhangers), paired with the episodic nature of the plot, begins to wear thin. The less the three work together, the more the Wind Witch can use them against one another. The action is nonstop, and likable side characters find themselves paying high prices as the kids skip through Western, science-fiction, fantasy, and other worlds. The children have to work hard for their happy ending.

Generally, an enjoyable book with high stakes and a solid ending, despite the mushy middle. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-219251-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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THE ONE AND ONLY FAMILY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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