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From the Dragon Rider series , Vol. 3

Best for existing series fans.

This Dragon Rider novel, written in English rather than translated from German like previous entries, pits the Greenblooms and fabulous creatures against an evil acquaintance from Barnabas’ schooldays.

An ancient myth states if waterfowl form swirling, flowerlike images on four different bodies of water, the mythical Aurelia, bearing healing pods, will appear where the lines connecting these locations intersect. It seems this is now happening, and the Greenblooms are preparing by calling the magical earth, air, fire, and water creatures who will carry the four pods to their appropriate realms. However, if the Aurelia or her pods are met with violence, she will cause all the fabulous creatures on Earth to disappear. While the Greenblooms and their magical friends are preparing to welcome the Aurelia, evil Cadoc Eelstrom is preparing to steal one of the pods to make himself immortal. The execution of this basic good-versus-evil plot is incohesive and disjointed. While the narrative voice changes with each chapter, the progression of the plot, alas, does not. Readers, reminded for the umpteenth time that the Aurelia will make all fabulous creatures disappear if she is angered, may begin to feel frustrated. Plunked on top of the thin plot are snippets describing the properties of the many magical creatures the author introduces, but these many, undeniably imaginative embellishments cannot resurrect a story that doesn’t have depth and characters that lack nuance. Black-and-white illustrations add a whimsical touch. Most human characters read as White.

Best for existing series fans. (cast of characters) (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-21555-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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