From the Skandar series , Vol. 1

Unexpected, suspenseful, and heartwarming.

Unassuming Skandar Smith yearns to be bonded with a unicorn and must grow into the role he’ll play in an epic battle with evil.

Skandar’s dad has told him that his deceased mum promised him a unicorn. Skandar, eager to escape bullies at school and his grieving father at home, hopes this promise will come true: Now 13, he is eligible to take the Hatchery exam, the first step in determining who will be paired with a unicorn. But he’s inexplicably denied entry to the test. The intrigue deepens when a woman shows up to deliver him covertly to the Hatchery so he can try to open the door on the Island behind which are the unicorn eggs. She warns Skandar about the Weaver, an evil entity. Tension mounts as Skandar tries to determine the Weaver’s plan; he’s disconcerted when the first children who see his unicorn hatchling, Scoundrel, spot the mark of the forbidden, deadly spirit element—which is wielded by the Weaver. In fact, none of the unicorns in this tale are for the fainthearted. Even bonded, somewhat controlled unicorns are bloodthirsty. Wild, unbonded unicorns are immortal in death—murderous, rotting, and forever dying. It is these terrifying details, plus a terrible betrayal, that keep readers on knife’s edge even as Skandar’s bond with his unicorn deepens and his friendship with other riders solidifies—with them, Skandar brings about change. Skandar reads as White; the supporting cast includes diverse skin tones.

Unexpected, suspenseful, and heartwarming. (maps) (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66591-273-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022


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


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 10

Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride.

Zipping back and forth in time atop outsized robo–bell bottoms, mad inventor Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) legs his way to center stage in this slightly less-labored continuation of episode 9.

The action commences after a rambling recap and a warning not to laugh or smile on pain of being forced to read Sarah Plain and Tall. Pilkey first sends his peevish protagonist back a short while to save the Earth (destroyed in the previous episode), then on to various prehistoric eras in pursuit of George, Harold and the Captain. It’s all pretty much an excuse for many butt jokes, dashes of off-color humor (“Tippy pressed the button on his Freezy-Beam 4000, causing it to rise from the depths of his Robo-Pants”), a lengthy wordless comic and two tussles in “Flip-o-rama.” Still, the chase kicks off an ice age, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Big Bang (here the Big “Ka-Bloosh!”). It ends with a harrowing glimpse of what George and Harold would become if they decided to go straight. The author also chucks in a poopy-doo-doo song with musical notation (credited to Albert P. Einstein) and plenty of ink-and-wash cartoon illustrations to crank up the ongoing frenzy.

Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-17536-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

Close Quickview