A thoughtful, exciting work with pleasing rhyme and rhythm; a nice addition to Arthurian literature for kids.

TALES OF KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS

In rhyming verse, this debut children’s book tells how the legendary King Arthur, Sir Gawain, and Sir Lancelot began their journeys.

Every hero needs an origin story, and Bloom’s debut children’s book offers those of a sovereign and two knights of the Round Table. The basics are familiar: the sword in the stone, Arthur’s discovery of his kingship, King Lot’s opposition and his son Gawain’s choice to defy his father and serve Arthur, the forming of the Round Table and its “new rules for knights,” and Lancelot’s battle against a giant before he joins Arthur’s men. Each section centers on a personal test of courage. After pulling the sword from the stone, for example, young Arthur—moments ago only a squire—must face skeptical, battle-hardened warriors, claim the crown, and remind them they vowed to serve his father, the king: “Now as his son I call on you / To live up to your word! / Now kneel, and take your oaths again / Before my royal sword!” It takes moral courage, too, for Gawain to stand by his oath and defend Arthur; he’s also thoughtful about the destructiveness of war. And although Lancelot has never been in a real fight and wonders whether he’ll be scared, he fights bravely in a long, hard-fought battle, even when his shield is split. Bloom keeps the story moving along briskly, bringing in plenty of emotion and excitement along with musings on oaths, loyalty, and courage. The battle scene with Lancelot, the giant, and other knights is particularly dramatic and clearly told. The verse, which mostly scans well, is generally written in quatrains rhyming ABCB, though the occasional double rhymes of ABAB stanzas are effective, as when Lancelot encounters an enemy soldier: “But he looked up and spotted me / With my spear aimed at his face / And he decided he’d rather be / In some other, safer, place.” The book lacks illustrations, though, which would have added another dimension to the text.

A thoughtful, exciting work with pleasing rhyme and rhythm; a nice addition to Arthurian literature for kids.

Pub Date: June 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4809-4225-7

Page Count: 66

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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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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