Loose ends and a fuzzy mythology are flaws that will likely be overlooked by readers who enjoy immersing themselves in...

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THE SCORPIONS OF ZAHIR

Combine a complicated and not entirely explained premise involving the link between a mysterious planet and a half-buried desert city, giant scorpions with the power to communicate, and an eccentric cast of characters, and you’ve got a wild ride indeed.

Long ago, the Azimuth people thrived in the beautiful city of Zahir, which was protected by a pyramid that absorbed energy from a planet called Nar Azrak. When a stone was removed from the apex of the pyramid, deadly scorpions invaded the city, and Nar Azrak began to veer off course in a path that would ultimately result in a collision with Earth. Fast forward to present day, and readers find 11-year-old Zagora, her brother, Duncan, and their father, archaeologist Dr. Charles Pym, venturing into the Moroccan desert to rescue Dr. Pym’s long-lost partner and to save Zahir and what remains of the Azimuth people. Although the focus is on the fast-paced, suspenseful plot, some welcome character development is also present. Zagora’s confidence grows, and she and her brother Duncan bond in a way that didn’t seem possible in their previous, ordinary lives.

Loose ends and a fuzzy mythology are flaws that will likely be overlooked by readers who enjoy immersing themselves in adventures featuring creepiness of both the historical and otherworldly varieties. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73933-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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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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