Nothing spices up a boring road trip like moments of extreme terror.

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NEVER SAY GENIUS

From the Genius Files series , Vol. 2

Twins Coke and Pepsi McDonald squeak through numerous murder attempts at roadside attractions across the Midwest and on eastward.

After berating readers who skipped the opener, Mission Unstoppable (2011), Gutman picks up his unconventional cross-country travelogue where he left off. He takes the RV holding his 13-year-old brainiacs and their oblivious parents from the National Mustard Museum in Spring Green, Wisc., to the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. Along the way, he pauses to suspend the sibs in French-fry cages over boiling oil outside the first McDonald’s, imprison them in glass vats of soft-serve ice cream at Ohio’s spectacular Cedar Point Amusement Park, lock them inside Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum (with a Megadeth track cranked up to mind-blowing level) and subject them to other perils. What’s up? It seems aptly named bad guy Archie Clone and other assassins are out to kill, or perhaps test, them before they can join a secret organization of child geniuses and collect a huge reward. Tucking in small photos, instructions for following the route on Google Maps, facts about attractions large and small and mysterious ciphered messages, the author brings his confused but resourceful youngsters to an explosive climax and a shocking revelation that guarantees further adventures on the road back to the left coast.

Nothing spices up a boring road trip like moments of extreme terror. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-182767-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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