Tedious and derivative.

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FOXHEART

A 12-year-old white girl discovers she is a witch and sets off to fight forces of evil with her magical animal companion.

When she was 3, Quicksilver’s parents abandoned her at a convent. There, she is made fun of for her squashed nose and gray hair, and she retaliates by stealing and disobeying. She befriends a bedraggled dog, names him Fox, and tells him of her plans to become the best thief in the Star Lands. In one of her early burgling efforts, she meets Sly Boots, a white boy whose parents are ill and who offers Quicksilver a home in exchange for help. Then she meets Anastazia, an ancient witch who turns out to be the older version of Quicksilver herself. They all travel back in time to try to neutralize the First Ones, who are terrorizing witches using the human agency of the Wolf King. Plot inconsistencies aside, it’s a storyline that’s as stale as rolls from Pompeii. Quicksilver is a dim, unappealing protagonist whose emotional range mostly runs the gamut from A (anger) to B (brash). Fox, Quicksilver’s “monster”—a cross between a familiar and a daemon from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy—is an indefatigable vulpine deus ex machina, as all plot obstructions are resolved by his changing into whatever shape is necessary to accomplish the task. Right on schedule, characters turn traitor, die, or sacrifice themselves for the good of all.

Tedious and derivative. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-242773-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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SPACE CASE

From the Moon Base Alpha series , Vol. 1

When Dr. Holtz’s body is discovered just outside the lunar colony, everyone assumes he made a mistake putting on his spacesuit—but 12-year-old Dashiell “Dash” Gibson has reason to believe this was no accident.

Earth’s first space base has been a living hell for Dash. There’s not much to do on the moon besides schoolwork and virtual-reality gaming, and there’s only a handful of kids his age up there with him. The chance to solve a murder is exactly the type of excitement Dash needs. As clues are found and secrets are uncovered, Dash comes to understand that some of the base’s residents aren’t what they seem to be. With a small cast of characters supplying an excellent variety of suspects, Gibbs creates the best kind of “murder on a train” mystery. The genius, however, is putting the train in space. Closed quarters and techno–mumbo-jumbo add delightful color to the proceedings. Thankfully, the author doesn’t let the high-concept setting overshadow the novel’s mystery. The whodunit is smartly paced and intricately plotted. Best of all, the reveal is actually worth all the buildup. Thrillers too often fly off the rails in their final moments, but the author’s steady hand keeps everything here on track.

Fully absorbing. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9486-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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