Relentless action will either entertain or overwhelm readers.


From the Section 13 series

History, steampunk, and fantasy abound in the third installment of the Section 13 series.

Readers new to it would fare best by starting with The Lost Property Office (2016) and The Fourth Ruby (2017). Protagonist Jack is reeling, with his father in a coma and himself on trial, accused by the villainous Undersecretary for Things Unknown at the Ministry of Secrets, Ignatius Gall. Gall claims Jack is in violation of Section Eight, “the mixing of tracker bloodlines,” and demands that he be “destroyed” and the Ministry of Trackers disbanded. While the trial is adjourned, Jack still struggles to control both his “sparks,” the memories he sees trapped in objects, and his new skill of conjuring fire. Accompanied by companion Gwen, he decides to seek the “zed,” an artifact that could possibly cure Jack’s father. Eventually their search leads them to China and the hope that they may thwart Gall’s quest for immortality. The packed plot has a quick pace, but that results in quick resolutions and a lack of suspense. Gwen is white, and there’s nothing made of white-presenting Jack’s iota of Mongolian heritage, revealed in the previous book. There is diversity in secondary characters, and the second half of the story takes place in China, and here the book falters culturally. Hannibal stretches Chinese history with Jack’s claim that the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, became a “raving lunatic,” and, regrettably, the most prominent Asian character, the biracial (Asian/white) Liu Fai, is a math champion.

Relentless action will either entertain or overwhelm readers. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6715-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun


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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