A satisfying blend of fantasy, adventure story, eco-fable and political satire with broad appeal; especially recommended for...

WILDWOOD

From the Wildwood Chronicles series , Vol. 1

Fans of Meloy’s indie-rock band, The Decemberists, will recognize themes running through his engaging debut celebrating the struggle of ordinary folk (including plants and animals) to throw off tyranny and shape their destinies.

When her baby brother is carried off by crows to the Impassable Wilderness at the heart of Portland, Ore., stubbornly courageous Prue McKeel, 12, sets out to reclaim him, accompanied by annoying schoolfellow and class pariah Curtis Mehlberg. Their quest soon becomes entangled with longstanding conflicts among residents of this magical wilderness, which harbors secrets both strange (talking animals, sentient plants) and familiar (xenophobic mistrust, government red tape). Overcoming a slow start, the story gains momentum when Prue and Curtis enter the woods, encountering its vividly portrayed denizens, human and otherwise. Captured by the mysterious Dowager Governess, Curtis must choose sides in a confusing conflict; either way, he’ll need courage and ingenuity to survive. Prue’s search leads through South Wood’s impenetrable bureaucracy to North Wood, where mystics commune with nature. Gritty urban settings abound in contemporary fantasy (Holly Black, Neil Gaiman and China Miéville are exemplars). Faithfully recreating Portland’s wild Forest Park, Meloy gives his world a uniquely Pacific Northwest spin. Illustrations by Ellis, Meloy’s wife, bring forest and inhabitants to gently whimsical life.

A satisfying blend of fantasy, adventure story, eco-fable and political satire with broad appeal; especially recommended for preteen boys. (Fantasy. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202468-8

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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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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The series keeps cruising along…though iffy casting may be an early sign that it’s losing steam.

SPY SCHOOL AT SEA

From the Spy School series , Vol. 9

In a new caper, the Spy School team thwarts a fiendish scheme on the high seas.

A fresh chance to catch up to world-class gourmand and perennial foe Murray Hill plants dogged CIA junior agent Ben Ripley and associates—including markedly more competent classmate Erica Hale and her equally able mom, Catherine—aboard the Emperor of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, for a fresh round of ridiculously destructive chases, startling twists, and repeated attempts on the hapless young spy’s life that are somehow always averted in the nick of time. Along with adding a grandfatherly, eco-conscious Costa Rican drug lord to the supporting cast, Gibbs flirts with stereotypes by trotting in, among the few characters who don’t at least present as White, a Chinese teen given to muddling her English idioms, her bling-loving mother, and a chipper shipboard event manager of Australian Indigenous descent. Still, the revved-up plot will leave readers as breathless as Ben is in the wake of a final, unexpected turn in his relationship with Erica. Finally, finally nabbing the slobby supervillain (at least for now) as well as saving the lives of hundreds of oblivious, hard-partying onboard tourists must count for something.

The series keeps cruising along…though iffy casting may be an early sign that it’s losing steam. (Thriller. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7943-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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