A secondary-at-best middle-grade thriller—here’s hoping the sequels improve.

OMEGA CITY

From the Omega City series , Vol. 1

Gillian’s dad’s conspiracy theories ruined the family…but what if he’s right?

With their parents divorced, 12-year-old Gillian and her brother, Eric, live with their disgraced scientist father in their former summer home. Mom is abroad researching a book and not likely to come back to the States soon. Dad’s biography of the controversial (and missing) engineer Aloysius Underberg ended his career. Now, all the unemployed history professor does is speak at conspiracy conventions and read seminars on the like. That’s where he met his new more-than-friend Fiona. Gillian’s distrust of Fiona leads her and her friends to discover missing pages of Dr. Underberg’s journal…which leads them to discover a secret underground bunker-city that is twice as hard to escape as it was to find, especially with gun-toting secret agents on their heels. Gillian wants to find Dr. Underberg’s 100-year battery or at least proof that her father is not crazy, but what she and her friends find is much more amazing…and dangerous. Teen author Peterfreund tries her hand at a sci-fantasy thriller for a younger audience and misses the mark. Though her conversational first-person narrator is personable enough, the coincidence-dependent plot has significant holes, and the thrills are sadly uneven.

A secondary-at-best middle-grade thriller—here’s hoping the sequels improve. (Adventure. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231085-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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