Rendered with exquisite sensory detail, this hero’s journey is a resonant read for unsettling times.

RED FOX ROAD

A hazardous choice on a family trip generates cascading events that leave a teen struggling to survive in the Oregon wilderness.

Unlike her father, 13-year-old Francie and her mother enjoy hiking. During the family’s drive from Penticton, British Columbia, to the Grand Canyon, Dad opts for a shortcut that his new GPS indicates should cut 100 miles from their trip. Mom’s doubts—his road’s not on her paper map—prove justified as the road grows rougher and night approaches. Francie reads her survival guidebook and naps until a rock takes out their truck. Making the best of things—they’ve got camping gear, though little food and no cellphone (her parents don’t like them)—they spend a night in the vast, beautiful forest. The next morning, Dad sets off for help, carrying their tent and the GPS. As days of waiting pass, Mom—mentally unstable since Francie’s twin sister died from a congenital heart defect—starts behaving erratically. Francie copes with her own fear by planning and preparing for contingencies. She’ll need all her hard-won knowledge as challenges mount. Resourceful, doggedly careful, courageous Francie brightens this often somber tale. As she’s recovering from a scary bear encounter, the clear night sky enchants her. Her love and respect for the wilderness, its plants and denizens who are simply trying—like her—to survive, shine. Francie and her parents are White.

Rendered with exquisite sensory detail, this hero’s journey is a resonant read for unsettling times. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6781-7

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Puffin/Penguin Random House Canada

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

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. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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