From the Peasprout Chen series , Vol. 2

A riveting second act.

Facing possible deportation, imminent war, and a nest of “usually benevolent but now vicious coiling water dragons,” Chen Peasprout and her friends skate into full gear.

Entering her second year at Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, Peasprout is still reeling from the discoveries of Book 1—and readers new to the series should start there. Charming classmate Hisashi returns to Pearl with the mysterious Wu Yinmei, allegedly seeking refuge from her great-great-grandmother, the ruthless Shinian Empress Dowager. As the school transforms into a military academy, the three students, along with Peasprout’s best friend, Doi, and brainy younger brother, Cricket, join forces (team name: Nobody and the Fire-Chickens) to outwit their classmates and defend Pearl. Lien hits his stride in this second installment, as the series’ many narrative threads begin to coalesce. The Asian-inspired fantasy, with its presumably all-Asian (or fantasy equivalent) cast, takes on weighty and relevant questions of gender, ability, leadership, immigration, conservation of natural resources, national identity, and political change with intelligence, deftness, and precision. Romances, including one between two girls, are realistically awkward (but maybe less realistically chaste—though they are still in their early teens) while the friendships, sibling relationships, and rivalries continue to provide the story’s emotional core. And Peasprout is its snarky, brilliant, hilarious, and utterly human heart. Readers, who have to wait for the next volume to see what happens next, will echo one of Peasprout’s favorite imprecations: “Ten thousand years of stomach gas.”

A riveting second act. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-16575-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018


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 award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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