This vacation founders in less-than-terrifying waters.

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GRAVEDIGGERS

TERROR COVE

From the Gravediggers series , Vol. 2

The second book in the Gravediggers series presents a family vacation with beaches, boats and a body count.

When classmates Ian, Kendra and PJ all win family vacations to Puerto Rico, it seems like the perfect escape from the memories of their last trip, which started with zombies and ended with the trio being declared the next generation of zombie fighters. Soon enough, though, a perfectly normal setting soon turns into a zombie magnet, and the trio find themselves trapped on a tropical island, fighting waves of waterlogged, reanimated corpses. But this time, the monsters have been upgraded, thanks to a mysterious millionaire and his sinister zombie agenda. The SAT practice words and the zombie kick-ass moments return along with the kids, but the zombies are no longer desiccated corpses—these are bloated, fish-eaten bodies sloughing off flesh left and right. Ian, Kendra and PJ are more defined this time around, each with a distinct personality; unfortunately, their personalities aren’t all that engaging. In fact, the various jungle creatures have more presence on the page in their brief appearances than the teens and their families. A coven of witches adds a bit of spice, but there’s an overall lack of emotion all around. Krovatin sets the stage for a third novel with a growing threat and betrayal, but it’s hard to build enthusiasm for what has already become an extremely formulaic series.

This vacation founders in less-than-terrifying waters. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-207743-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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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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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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