An offbeat, matter-of-fact journey from displacement to an idyllic homestead.


A motley group hesitantly forms a princess-rescuing team and ends up in the last place they expected.

In a post–World War II London still recovering from the Blitz lives a Hag who’s been dislodged from her Dribble (a water meadow where “the damp air is so soft”). At a meeting for Unusual People, three partially-asleep norns assign the Hag, a troll, a self-doubting wizard and a open-hearted orphan to go to “an island as big as England and Scotland and Wales all put together” to rescue Princess Mirella from a flesh-eating ogre. They make the journey, befriend Mirella and take over the ogre’s castle while the text calmly upends conventions and expectations: Mirella’s no damsel-in-distress after all, and the ogre’s more petulant and beleaguered than flesh-hungry. From Hag to ogre to misinformed norns to a previously-human gnu, Ibbotson’s characters are non-glamorous and wistful but all the more human for it. Although soldiers try to kidnap Mirella, the real challenge for these mixed-age protagonists is sadness. The plot never flags or becomes sentimental; humor and gross-out tidbits (medicine made from used foot-washing water) pop up amid delicious turns of phrase (a dead salamander looks “like a very troubled banana which had died in its sleep”). Humility trumps grandness here; meanwhile, the castle becomes a home.

An offbeat, matter-of-fact journey from displacement to an idyllic homestead.   (Illustrations not seen.) (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-525-42382-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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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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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.


Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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