A fun adventure for animal-loving young readers.

THE HOPPERNOTS

Three young, plucky frogs help save the day in Dempsey’s debut for middle-grade readers.

Life is tranquil at Lake Fibian for the Anura, the frog nation, who gather monthly on Luna Light Night “to celebrate the unity of the lake.” Three young frog friends, known for their troublemaking as “The Three,” enjoy many adventures around the lake. Max is the most daring of The Three, while Spyder is more cautious (and a voracious eater), and Cristobel excels at figuring things out. Life hasn’t always been so idyllic, though. According to the “Croaklore,” the lake was once invaded by a creature called a Hoppernot, which walked on two legs, spoke an incomprehensible language, and snatched fish out of the lake without warning. After the Hoppernot departed, all the species made a pact to cooperate. Now the Hoppernots have returned, threatening the peace. The Three discover that the Hoppernots are destroying the animals’ summer resort, a long-abandoned house. Cristobel also finds that she can understand their language. Using this knowledge, The Three mobilize the animals to use their strengths to scare the Hoppernots away. The story is told from a frog’s-eye view, presenting common items such as cars and baseball caps from a frog’s perspective. Even the language has been modified as frog-speak: “They’re too afraid of getting tadnapped and taken away.” Animal lovers will enjoy fun facts neatly incorporated into the plot; for example, a flock of crows is called a murder. In the beginning, the history of the animals’ pact almost overwhelms with detail, and it takes a while for the action to get going. Once it does, though, the story moves at a quick pace, with only a couple of delays for out-of-place flashbacks. Some minor punctuation and grammatical errors, as well as incorrect word choices (“after so much time had past”), may be especially confusing for an audience new to reading. However, well-developed characters, an exciting climax, and a strong theme of working together make this an appealing story.

A fun adventure for animal-loving young readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990481201

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Pug Paw Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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The series keeps cruising along…though iffy casting may be an early sign that it’s losing steam.

SPY SCHOOL AT SEA

From the Spy School series , Vol. 9

In a new caper, the Spy School team thwarts a fiendish scheme on the high seas.

A fresh chance to catch up to world-class gourmand and perennial foe Murray Hill plants dogged CIA junior agent Ben Ripley and associates—including markedly more competent classmate Erica Hale and her equally able mom, Catherine—aboard the Emperor of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, for a fresh round of ridiculously destructive chases, startling twists, and repeated attempts on the hapless young spy’s life that are somehow always averted in the nick of time. Along with adding a grandfatherly, eco-conscious Costa Rican drug lord to the supporting cast, Gibbs flirts with stereotypes by trotting in, among the few characters who don’t at least present as White, a Chinese teen given to muddling her English idioms, her bling-loving mother, and a chipper shipboard event manager of Australian Indigenous descent. Still, the revved-up plot will leave readers as breathless as Ben is in the wake of a final, unexpected turn in his relationship with Erica. Finally, finally nabbing the slobby supervillain (at least for now) as well as saving the lives of hundreds of oblivious, hard-partying onboard tourists must count for something.

The series keeps cruising along…though iffy casting may be an early sign that it’s losing steam. (Thriller. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7943-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How To Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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