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A pair of appealing adventures with an edgy through-the-looking-glass feel.

Awards & Accolades

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Bernard presents two connected children’s novellas of adventure in dystopian lands.

In If You Ride a Crooked Trolley, 9-year-old Peter Myshkin Stephenson from the fictional northern New England town of Halloway is well acquainted with unhappiness and confusion. He wonders about the origins of his orange hair (his parents are both blond), his levels of intelligence and attractiveness, and if he’s to blame for his parents’ bickering. However, he puts all this in proper perspective after he finds himself in an unfamiliar, war-torn region after a ride on a yellow trolley takes him to an unexpected destination. There, a girl in a red coat named Sharlotta initiates Petey into the world of Otherwise, teaching him about the warring Paona and Korgan peoples and a “Spell” that makes it possible to “go back into past and change into future.” She needs Petey to help her find and rescue her family members, who are in a tent somewhere in a Korgan camp. In The Judgement of Biestia, Petey finds that no one believes his story of his Otherwise experience after he returns home—not even his best friend, Chace Fusillade. Later, at the beach, Chace and Petey encounter a huge wave and find themselves treading water in the open ocean. As in many tales for children, this one has Petey embarking on his adventures without proper parental supervision, and he must learn to rely on friends and his own judgment. The worlds that Petey enters are alternate versions of our own in which history panned out differently; for example, the boys’ seagoing rescuers in The Judgement of Biestia have never heard of America. Many of the people he encounters are also realistically hardened by their conditions. Characters’ dialects are also different from standard English, lending the work further authenticity. Petey’s exits from these worlds, though, are rather abrupt; perhaps more direct comparisons to Petey’s everyday life in Halloway would have made these journeys and transitions more meaningful. Two color illustrations by Batra and Seabury, respectively, feature characters and settings from each story.

A pair of appealing adventures with an edgy through-the-looking-glass feel.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-58790-669-5

Page Count: 285

Publisher: Regent Press

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2022

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From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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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

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