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. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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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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Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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