Slapstick leavens this back-stabbing adventure.


From the Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem series , Vol. 2

Following A Dastardly Plot (2018), the plucky heroes seek vindication and victory through a daring quest to discover the South Pole.

Although the government has sworn Molly Pepper, her inventor mother, Cassandra, and her friend Emmett Lee to secrecy regarding the truth of the World Fair—meaning they can’t claim ownership of their heroics—things should be looking up for the Peppers. But when Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell fail to secure the votes to allow women into the Inventors’ Guild, which would secure Cassandra both recognition and financial rewards, the inventor goes into a funk and her daughter schemes to let the truth out. Also scheming is intrepid young investigative reporter Nellie Bly (whose constant disguises and alter egos are a running gag). Thwarted by the government, they launch a desperate gambit with the help of the Mothers of Invention to beat Bell to the South Pole, where he’s pursuing the villainous Rector. The first act’s pacing is a little off, but the characters’ frustrations with their circumstances and oppressions are tangible. As the plot (a string of treacherous betrayals) picks up, so does the humor. While racial descriptors are mainly absent (leaving most characters assumed white), people of color are present in a stop in Barbados, and African American inventor Sarah Goode returns. Furthermore, the oppression experienced by Chinese-born Emmett Lee is openly dealt with. The ending is a minor cliffhanger. A glossary-style afterword separates fact from fiction. Readers new to the series should start with Vol. 1.

Slapstick leavens this back-stabbing adventure. (Historical science-fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-234200-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


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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Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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