A mostly strong magical adventure in the grand tradition.

The first sentence grabs readers right away: “On May 23, exactly one month before Gustavia and Leomaris Brennan’s eleventh birthday, their mother became terribly, mysteriously ill.”

The promise of the sentence is fulfilled as Gus, Leo and their selectively mute little sister, Ila, discover and battle the source of their mother’s illness, simultaneously learning of their own magical powers. Filtered primarily through Gus’ point of view, the third-person narration is full of action, with cliffhangers ending most chapters. In a nice feminist touch, Gus is the active twin; Leo, the bookworm. The children are whisked away from their parents to help the Móraí—their ancient, powerful uber–great-grandmother—defeat a monster who has already wreaked great havoc on the Atlantic coast. Plot, characters, Celtic folklore and many magical elements—especially surrounding the servant called “the Bedell”—are reminiscent of works by P.L. Travers and Susan Cooper. Divergence from these classics lies in the supernatural abilities of the children (and the Bedell) to become other animals and to use this power in their quest. The strongest, most believable scenes in this cinematic book take readers firmly into the realm of the fantastic, with their vivid descriptions of such wonders as a living, breathing book and swimming and communicating as seals. In contrast, some of the realistic scenes are awkward and clichéd. Appropriately interspersed scientific facts are an added plus.

A mostly strong magical adventure in the grand tradition. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-375-87091-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

Dizzyingly silly.

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 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014


Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

Close Quickview