Lacks the urgency and coherence of the bears' first series, but fans will demand this follow-up.

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ISLAND OF SHADOWS

From the Seekers: Return to the Wild series , Vol. 1

The wildly popular writing team (writing collectively as Hunter) sends its team of bears out for another episodic adventure, but the object of this quest is less than clear.

Brown bear Toklo, black bear Lusa and white bear Kallik have accomplished the long trek to Star Island and destroyed the threats to its fragile ecosystem, but at the cost of the life of their friend, the shape-shifting Ujurak, reunited with his mother in the stars. Now accompanied by the white bear Yakone, they turn their paws homeward, unsure of both route and destination. After enduring quarrels and hunger, nearly fatal accidents and harrowing encounters with humans, the foursome stumbles across the abandoned Nanulak. Will caring for this strange bear cub fill the empty place in Toklo's heart? Or does Nanaluk conceal dangerous secrets of his own? The authors do a fine job recapping previous events, making this an accessible entry point for new readers. Unfortunately, the characters seem to have lost much of their accumulated growth and nuance as well: Toklo is angry and guilt-ridden, Lusa is wise but weak, Kallik is the nurturing peacemaker and Yakone exists mainly to be big and strong and have things explained to him. Scheming Nanaluk is a caricature of a villain, while the dreamlike visions of the ascended Ujurak only underscore the shift in theme from environmental awareness to a plea for interspecies tolerance.

Lacks the urgency and coherence of the bears' first series, but fans will demand this follow-up. (Animal fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199634-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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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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