THE WEIRD IN THE WILDS

From the True Tales of Triumph and Disaster series , Vol. 2

This blend of hero quest and political allegory ultimately misses its mark.

This follow-up to A Flicker of Courage (2020) features four kids who inhabit a fantastical, yet familiar, universe.

Henry, Apollo, Pirate Girl, and Jo now know they are spell breakers and can help fight narcissistic villain Vlad Luxor, the Horrible Ruler with Magic, who boasts of his plans to build a border wall. Luxor changes their bullying classmate Jason, who teases Jo about her mom’s relationship with a woman, into a smelly gerenuk, a species of gazelle, and with the help of Henry’s grandfather, they realize that despite their dislike of Jason, they must help him. This turns into a madcap quest through the terrifying forest known as the Wilds. The heavily message-driven presentation of a world in the throes of a battle between good and evil doesn’t always blend well with the goofy, lighthearted tone. Readers who enjoyed the first may appreciate this one, which ends with a setup for another installment, but it’s unlikely to win over new readers. References to songs by artists like The Talking Heads and Prince add to the question already raised by the knowingly quirky, often vintage-styled illustrations of who exactly the intended readers are. Most of the characters assume a White default; Jo is the descendent of a South American revolutionary.

This blend of hero quest and political allegory ultimately misses its mark. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984813-08-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

THE WILD ROBOT PROTECTS

From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

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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