Diverting but unanchored, this is training wheels for Waiting for Godot.


This ocean adventure reads fast and clever but remains what it says on the jacket. Without backstory, identities or context to moor the boy or the bear to the rest of the world, off floats the story on its own.

At first, the sly abstruseness in Shelton’s witty prose is intriguing, even exciting. A boy steps into a rowboat. The rower, a bear, asks “Where to?” The boy waves his hand “vaguely out across the water” and answers, “Just over to the other side, please.” A mystery! But clearly there’s another “side,” a place “where he was going,” even if its distance is farther than expected: “I thought you’d be able to see it [from here].” The diction is unflaggingly clean and clear, droll and mischievous (“A boringly gentle breeze thought about blowing, but decided in the end not to bother”). However, despite storms, sea-monster hazards and an ever-shifting bear/boy dynamic, this book never feels complete. There’s no journey’s end, nor disclosure of destination; hunger somehow becomes a conquerable philosophical challenge: “[H]is hunger had been there for so long that… [i]t was normal now and he didn’t really notice it.” Whatever the message—overcoming obstacles? staying at sea forever? overcoming the need for… food?—this is more allegory than any story form with closure.

Diverting but unanchored, this is training wheels for Waiting for Godot. (Fable. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-75248-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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


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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