Imaginative but not fully realized.

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THE EXTREMELY INCONVENIENT ADVENTURES OF BRONTE METTLESTONE

The stipulations of her parents’ will send Bronte Mettlestone on a quest throughout Kingdoms and Empires.

When Bronte is just 10, her aunt Isabelle, with whom she lives, receives word that her parents—off gallivanting since Bronte’s birth—have been killed by pirates. Their will, bound with magic Faery cross-stitch, compels Bronte to deliver, in person, a gift to each of her other 10 aunts, spending at least three days with each one. She begins with Aunt Sue, who takes her to the elves’ Festival of Matchstick, where Bronte saves a baby from drowning and wins the Elvish Medal of Bravery. Next, Bronte frees Aunt Emma from wrongful imprisonment regarding the theft of a water sprite’s pepper grinder and saves the water sprite from death by drying. As her adventures go on, and on, Bronte learns more about the Whisperers, who spread Dark Magic from their kingdom, and the Spellbinders, who stopped it—and that she may have a closer relationship to all this magic than she knew. This is Moriarty’s first foray into middle-grade fiction, and it turns out to be about five aunt adventures too many—the never-ending whimsy becomes cloying, and the story stalls. Readers struggle to keep so many characters straight, let alone care about any of them, and without emotional connection there’s not enough incentive to keep reading. Most of the characters are described as light-skinned.

Imaginative but not fully realized. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-25584-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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