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An undemanding but fun and diverting adventure for early readers.

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In Benjamin’s middle-grade chapter book, a young girl finds a wish-granting seashell and is drawn into an underwater adventure.

Eleven-year-old Marissa is vacationing at the beach when she comes across a pulsating, iridescent, talking seashell. It introduces itself as Periwinkle and tricks her into accompanying it underwater to the Sea-Queen’s palace. Marissa is carried there on the back of a dolphin called Delta (She can breathe underwater so long as she keeps hold of Periwinkle). It transpires that the Sea-Queen has been enchanted by a wizard into a comalike state that can only be broken should a “land mortal” find and pick an especially rare ocean flower called the Neptius. Escorted by Periwinkle, Delta, the mermaid Elga, and the curmudgeonly guard fish Tarak, Marissa sets out to save the queen. To succeed in her mission, she will have to evade the clutches of the villainous One-Eyed (a tiger shark) and his band of cutthroat sea creatures and elude Shantaya, the evil nymph who trained the wizard in the first place. The prose is simple but sometimes lacks fluency: “The Lords and Orgons spoke to her kindly and never put her under pressure. Had it been the opposite, she would have refused.” Marissa is largely a cipher, offering little to distinguish her as a protagonist. This may enable readers to project something of their own personalities onto her, but the blandly rendered Marissa’s actions are not especially inspiring. Benjamin affords her little agency, and, while nominally the hero of the story, she mostly just drifts along, carried—both literally and metaphorically—by her companions. Events play out quickly as the plot continuously shifts and leads the heroes into plenty of peril (though nothing too scary). The novel’s strength lies in the depiction of the ocean world and its creatures; the author has a knack for character, and Marissa’s friends and enemies alike sparkle with magic and personality. While the plot is slight, the setting is splendiferous and surely will stoke young imaginations.

An undemanding but fun and diverting adventure for early readers.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781733354875

Page Count: 100

Publisher: Notable Kids Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2023

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From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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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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