A zany, rollicking series opener.

A DASTARDLY PLOT

From the Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem series , Vol. 1

An inventor’s daughter must stop a plot targeting New York City’s World’s Fair in 1883.

Molly Pepper and her widowed mother, Cassandra Pepper, both white, live in their pickle shop while Cassandra creates inventions in the back room. They want to debut Cassandra’s flying machine at the 1883 World Fair, but the Inventor’s Guild, which limits its membership to men, has taken all the exhibition spots. A madcap scheme to find a way into the fair results in an impromptu break-in at the guild’s building, where Molly meets Chinese immigrant Emmett Lee—and where she discovers evidence that indicates that Alexander Graham Bell is scheming to attack the fair with a death machine! Molly and Cassandra conclude that the best way to get the attention that Cassandra and her inventions deserve is for them to become heroes by saving the fair, leading them on a ridiculous journey packed with chase scenes, red herrings, mobsters, monologue-prone villains, and inventions. Besides famous real-life male inventors, important female inventors, including African-American Sarah Goode, also appear, in a secret cabal with a punny (and inevitable) name. The humor ranges from clever wordplay to running gags and cartoonish slapstick. Weaving throughout the outlandish mystery and entertaining wackiness, period gender and racial discrimination experienced by women and Chinese people are mined for tension. Molly’s unintentional microaggressions and Emmett’s status in the face of the Chinese Exclusion Act are both timely elements.

A zany, rollicking series opener. (author’s note) (Historical fantasy. 8-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-234197-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Rescues and kittens by the carload, with a bit of inner growth on the side.

BASTILLE VS. THE EVIL LIBRARIANS

From the Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series , Vol. 6

Previous prognostications of failure and doom notwithstanding, this bustling entry features miraculous survivals and just deserts for the biblio-baddies.

Switching narrators in the wake of devastating deeds at the end of The Dark Talent (2016), the co-authors pick up the action with stern, stab-happy Bastille describing her rescue of traumatized Alcatraz Smedry from a Library of Congress that is filling up with lava, then a desperate effort to keep ultra-evil librarian Biblioden the Scrivener from forcing the world’s remaining Free Kingdoms to check themselves out permanently. Despite her own forewarnings of a disastrous ending and stern suggestion to start with Volume 1 for the backstory, she does fill in enough of what’s going on for readers to keep pace—and in characteristically take-no-prisoners tones, lays out a rip-roaring tale in which she fulfills her role as Alcatraz’s protector with plenty of brisk (if bloodless) sword work and an unshakeable loyalty that, along with the occasional punch, draws him out of a paralyzing slough of guilt and self-loathing. A climactic battle features a horde of bloodthirsty kittens and a ravenous, punning monster—followed by hints that surviving librarians may be taking up worthier missions and, since Bastille insists on the veracity of this account, credible reasons why people the world around have talents for being late, breaking things, and like peccadillos. Most of the heroically posed figures in Lazo’s realistically modeled illustrations are light-skinned.

Rescues and kittens by the carload, with a bit of inner growth on the side. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-25-081106-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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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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