A thrill for any reader who knows the only thing more frightening than an unopened door is being locked behind one.

THE GATHERING

From the Shadow House series , Vol. 1

Five unhappy children think their troubles are over when they step inside a mysterious house—until the house refuses to let them leave.

The kids have one thing in common: misery, caused by a variety of neurodivergent symptoms. Poppy, a white orphan living in a group home, has only one friend in the world: the dead girl she sees behind her in every mirror. In Japanese-American Azumi’s disturbing dreams, she relives the loss of her sister in the Aokighara forest and is terrified that she is losing herself as well. Not only can no one hear the overwhelmingly beautiful music in white Marcus’ red head; no one understands his desperate need to play. And as their acting career abruptly ends, brown-skinned twins Dash and Dylan are losing their grip—Dash is having nightmares about failing to save his brother, and when Dylan isn’t feeling invisible, he is having flashbacks to a trauma he can’t quite grasp. All five receive different letters offering to make their dreams come true, but when they all arrive at Larkspur, nothing greets them but endless rooms and masked, murderous ghosts—it’s one thing to survive being different, it's quite another to survive a haunting. Although the choice to equate neurodivergence with the influence of hauntings is questionable, Poblocki’s meticulously crafted narrative is chilling and reminiscent of the best Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? terrors.

A thrill for any reader who knows the only thing more frightening than an unopened door is being locked behind one. (mobile app) (Horror. 10-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-92550-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories.

FINAL SEASON

A star 12-year-old quarterback has a championship to win, a developing family tragedy to cope with, and a life-changing decision to make.

Barely disguising the autobiographical elements contained here in the wake of his own diagnosis of ALS, former Atlanta Falcons player Green places his protagonist, Ben Redd, in a football family and on an upstate New York team coached by his dad and two older brothers—all former gridiron stars themselves. Ben’s anticipation as he looks forward to a season that will be capped by a game against archrival Penn Yan battles with his terror as he watches his father’s NFL injuries come home to roost in slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, and, eventually, a frantic trip to the hospital for an emergency tracheotomy. But as Ben’s parents, both iron willed, clash over whether he should be allowed to follow the family career path (and one of his brothers even announces that none of his kids will ever play), the sport’s allure comes through in a series of exciting clashes, with Ben and wonderfully hard-nosed new teammate, Thea Jean, leading the on-field heroics on the way to a last-yard, smash-mouth finale that leaves him dazed and exultant, with a broken finger, a probable concussion…and a choice of futures. Though the cast is mostly male and mostly White, between them, Thea and Ben’s mom add strong female representation.

An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-248595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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