Absorbing action eases readers over the bumps.

SECRET OF THE SHADOW BEASTS

In Brannland, small, elite cadres of teenage knights defend the people against the terrifying shadow beasts that roam between gloaming and dawn.

Even though Nora Kemp was identified at 7 as one of the rare immune children eligible to become knights, her father refused to let her join the MacAskill Orders. Then he was killed by a beast. Now 12, Nora finds her life changed forever when she successfully defends her mum against a pair of the giant spiders known as Aranea umbrae and is whisked into service as a knight despite her total lack of training. At Noye’s Hill, the castle that serves as the Orders’ headquarters, Nora displays uncanny raw talent in simulated battle (nurtured in part by her hours of video game play) and is appointed to the Order of the Hawk. The novel’s formula is cozy and familiar: Nora faces initial hostility within her Order but quickly proves herself, for instance. Its brittle worldbuilding (names point to a Brannland that is as robustly multicultural as its analog, Britain, but there’s no sense of a world beyond its borders) and arbitrary plotting (Nora’s sponsor easily allows her to bring forbidden personal items into Noye’s Hill), however, require tolerant readers. Magras’ warm character development and keen sense of pacing help. Nora presents White; her fellow knights are a diverse bunch and include a trans girl who uses hearing aids and a Muslim boy with two hijabi mums.

Absorbing action eases readers over the bumps. (map) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2932-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE REVOLTING REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE ROBO-BOXERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 10

Zipping back and forth in time atop outsized robo–bell bottoms, mad inventor Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) legs his way to center stage in this slightly less-labored continuation of episode 9.

The action commences after a rambling recap and a warning not to laugh or smile on pain of being forced to read Sarah Plain and Tall. Pilkey first sends his peevish protagonist back a short while to save the Earth (destroyed in the previous episode), then on to various prehistoric eras in pursuit of George, Harold and the Captain. It’s all pretty much an excuse for many butt jokes, dashes of off-color humor (“Tippy pressed the button on his Freezy-Beam 4000, causing it to rise from the depths of his Robo-Pants”), a lengthy wordless comic and two tussles in “Flip-o-rama.” Still, the chase kicks off an ice age, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Big Bang (here the Big “Ka-Bloosh!”). It ends with a harrowing glimpse of what George and Harold would become if they decided to go straight. The author also chucks in a poopy-doo-doo song with musical notation (credited to Albert P. Einstein) and plenty of ink-and-wash cartoon illustrations to crank up the ongoing frenzy.

Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-17536-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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