From the Peasprout Chen series , Vol. 2

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. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


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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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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