Both established fans of Agent Zero and those new to the series will surely find Carson a funny and endearing mini-Bond,...

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COUNTDOWN ZERO

From the Codename Conspiracy series , Vol. 2

Fresh off a stint as an “actual, real-life” secret agent who almost singlehandedly saved the world, Carson Fender, aka Agent Zero, is having trouble adjusting to post-mission life as an ordinary seventh-grader back in North Dakota.

Naturally, then, when HQ once again comes calling for the assistance of their top kid agent, Carson is in, no matter the stakes. The whole mission coincides perfectly with a class field trip to Mount Rushmore, making Carson the ideal candidate for the job. While his friends are taking in the sights, Carson must infiltrate a secret agency conveniently located in Teddy Roosevelt’s head, deliver the cure to a deadly virus, save Agent Nineteen, trapped inside, and get back before anyone from his class realizes he’s gone missing. Missions, however, never go quite as planned. Carson soon finds himself involved in a much larger and more dangerous plot, spearheaded by his old nemesis, the evil Mule Medlock. Though readers must wait too long for the start of the mission and the story meanders, once things get rolling, there are some great action scenes and several plot twists that force Carson to question whom he can really trust.

Both established fans of Agent Zero and those new to the series will surely find Carson a funny and endearing mini-Bond, right down to the supercool gadgets. (Adventure. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-212011-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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SPACE CASE

From the Moon Base Alpha series , Vol. 1

When Dr. Holtz’s body is discovered just outside the lunar colony, everyone assumes he made a mistake putting on his spacesuit—but 12-year-old Dashiell “Dash” Gibson has reason to believe this was no accident.

Earth’s first space base has been a living hell for Dash. There’s not much to do on the moon besides schoolwork and virtual-reality gaming, and there’s only a handful of kids his age up there with him. The chance to solve a murder is exactly the type of excitement Dash needs. As clues are found and secrets are uncovered, Dash comes to understand that some of the base’s residents aren’t what they seem to be. With a small cast of characters supplying an excellent variety of suspects, Gibbs creates the best kind of “murder on a train” mystery. The genius, however, is putting the train in space. Closed quarters and techno–mumbo-jumbo add delightful color to the proceedings. Thankfully, the author doesn’t let the high-concept setting overshadow the novel’s mystery. The whodunit is smartly paced and intricately plotted. Best of all, the reveal is actually worth all the buildup. Thrillers too often fly off the rails in their final moments, but the author’s steady hand keeps everything here on track.

Fully absorbing. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9486-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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