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ISLAND OF SHADOWS

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

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

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. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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