This novel touches on sensitive and tragic moments in history and gives them fantastical remediation for a provocative,...

A CRACK IN THE SEA

In the “second world” dwell people who did not arrive of their own volition. But in that world exist communities and harmony, between and among the Raftworlders (with dark brown skin and tightly curled hair) and the Islanders (with lighter-brown skin and straight hair).

Access to the second world is gained through a portal, which cannot be mapped, tracked, or predicted. This novel relates the stories of three different sets of relatives, whose stories intertwine. First up are Islanders Pip and Kinchen. Pip has the gift of talking to fishes, a gift the Raft King—ruler of Raftworld—is dangerously desperate to use so that he and his people can find the portal and leave the second world. There are also Venus and her twin brother, Swimmer—enslaved people held on a ship headed for Jamaica in 1781. They escape lives of bondage and heartbreaking cruelty via the portal to the second world. Finally, readers meet Thanh and Sang, a brother and sister trying to escape war-torn Vietnam on a small boat, when a violent storm and a brutal pirate attack threaten their survival. Bouwman takes these disparate stories and fits the pieces of her puzzle together in pleasantly surprising ways, down to the very end. Shimizu’s black-and-white illustrations are lovely and vital to picturing the different worlds and moments conjured by the author.

This novel touches on sensitive and tragic moments in history and gives them fantastical remediation for a provocative, immersive read. (afterword, bibliography) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54519-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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