A quirky, imaginative tale locked inside a stale, formulaic princess narrative.



From the More Than a Princess series , Vol. 1

The author’s latest fantasy series introduces Aislin, a princess of mixed heritage: fairy (the Disney-esque type) and pedrasi (less glitzy but gifted cavern dwellers).

Aislin’s fairy father and pedrasi mother rule a diverse kingdom that welcomes giants, ogres, sprites, nymphs, and others along with their own kinds. Aislin resembles her mother’s people—on the short and stocky side (though not in the cover art)—more than the tall, willowy fairies. Her pedrasi heritage confers what proves a crucial gift: drawing power from rocks and stones. Magical beings left the human world behind long ago and barred humans from entering their kingdoms. That changes when King Tyburr of Morain breaches the border. Alarmed, Aislin asks him to take her back to his castle, hoping to get him away from her people and learn his intentions. Her companions, a magical doll and her fairy BFF, also make effective spies. The king ponders marrying her to his conceited son, Rory, although snobbish castle courtiers disdain Aislin as fat and too dark; Rory’s companion Tomas is more to her liking. The writing is uneven: Static opening scenes of Aislin’s home castle read like paint-by-numbers for text, but pace and storytelling pick up whenever Aislin heads outdoors, where the author’s gift for synthesizing nature and magic comes into play. Humans seem to be default white, and Aislin’s dark skin is due to a pedrasi tendency to tan in the sun.

A quirky, imaginative tale locked inside a stale, formulaic princess narrative. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-768-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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