Some well-paced geeky humor is marred by broken or dull puzzles and inconsequential story choices.


From the Escape From a Video Game series , Vol. 2

Space adventure meets murder mystery meets video game meets puzzler.

After the reader chooses “yes” in answer to the question “Do you want to play Pemberton’s game?” the second-person protagonist is pulled into a book and wakes as a video game lizard named Dr. Iz. (Choosing “no” lands them on the final page of an Amish romance called The Cheesemaker’s Daughter.) Most people on the titular spaceship, apparently, are other players in the game. One of them, they all learn, is a traitor, and the first successful detective will receive $1 million. It’ll be tricky for the constantly bickering players to work together, though. The stereotyped player characters come from a range of backgrounds: the mom who hates video games, the teenage girl constantly poking at a phone, the condescending professional gamer, the 6-year-old (whose dialogue would better match someone older). Male players are all male aliens in-game, female players’ characters appear as human females illustrated with a variety of skin colors, and the second-person protagonist is male. The mystery is a branching narrative with story choices and puzzles to solve, but most choices lack interesting consequences. Many simply lead the protagonist into another room where he’s able to see a clue before the story branches rejoin, seemingly without consequence. In the climactic reveal, however, long after those apparently arbitrary choices, a summation of a solved mystery involves clues that were only revealed in some of the possible forks. Puzzles are mostly simple spot-the-differences brainteasers while a more complex puzzle does not work, presenting myriad functional answers.

Some well-paced geeky humor is marred by broken or dull puzzles and inconsequential story choices. (Science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5248-6803-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...


At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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