Go for Lyn Gardner’s Into the Woods, (2007) Emily Rodda’s Key to Rondo (2008) and Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark & Grimm...

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TWICE UPON A TIME

With no dearth of novels that fracture and mingle fairy tales, waste no time on this sequel and its lazy metaphysics.

Jack, of the beanstalk family, and Phillip, a prince, come from inside fairy tales; May, of unclear heritage, comes from the modern real world. They have many adventures. As they get into and out of scrapes, some magic startles them while some inexplicably doesn’t. Rather than portraying the magic with consistency or structure, the text indolently justifies itself: “[m]agic [is] strange.” Any detail can be just “[p]art o’ the magic”: When ocean replaces forest, the “because” is “Because why not.” Riley strives for twists and intrigue, but so many things appear “out of nowhere” that surprise becomes tedium. He simply hasn’t the knack yet of creating a plot in which characters are consistently confused but readers aren’t. There’s some cool stuff: Peter Pan is also Pan the satyr, and Jack’s sardonic narration is often funny. But words like “immediately” and “quickly” can’t force excitement, nor can offered-and-retracted inescapable peril (“nothing could possibly stop the sword as it flew straight and true right at Phillips' back— / Until an urgent, vibrant musical note sounded from behind”). The retrograde sexism of May’s fussy, sharp-tongued, victim role chafes.

Go for Lyn Gardner’s Into the Woods, (2007) Emily Rodda’s Key to Rondo (2008) and Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark & Grimm (2010) instead. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4169-9596-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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Another epic outing in a graphic hybrid series that continues not just to push the envelope, but tear it to shreds.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE SENSATIONAL SAGA OF SIR STINKS-A-LOT

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 12

Pranksters George and Harold face the deadliest challenge of their checkered careers: a supersmart, superstrong gym teacher.

With the avowed aim of enticing an audience of “grouchy old people” to the Waistband Warrior’s latest exploit, Pilkey promises “references to health care, gardening, Bob Evans restaurants, hard candies, FOX News, and gentle-yet-effective laxatives.” He delivers, too. But lest fans of the Hanes-clad hero fret, he also stirs in plenty of fart jokes, brain-melting puns, and Flip-O-Rama throwdowns. After a meteorite transforms Mr. Meaner into a mad genius (evil, of course, because “as everyone knows, most gym teachers are inherently evil”) and he concocts a brown gas that turns children into blindly obedient homework machines, George and Harold travel into the future to enlist aid from their presumably immune adult selves. Temporarily leaving mates and children (of diverse sexes, both) behind, Old George and Old Harold come to the rescue. But Meaner has a robot suit (of course he has a robot suit), and he not only beats down the oldsters, but is only fazed for a moment when Capt. Underpants himself comes to deliver a kick to the crotch. Fortunately, gym teachers, “like toddlers,” will put anything in their mouths—so an ingestion of soda pop and Mentos at last spells doom, or more accurately: “CHeffGoal-D’BLOOOM!”

Another epic outing in a graphic hybrid series that continues not just to push the envelope, but tear it to shreds. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-50492-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme.

KATT VS. DOGG

An age-old rivalry is reluctantly put aside when two young vacationers are lost in the wilderness.

Anthropomorphic—in body if definitely not behavior—Dogg Scout Oscar and pampered Molly Hissleton stray from their separate camps, meet by chance in a trackless magic forest, and almost immediately recognize that their only chance of survival, distasteful as the notion may be, lies in calling a truce. Patterson and Grabenstein really work the notion here that cooperation is better than prejudice founded on ignorance and habit, interspersing explicit exchanges on the topic while casting the squabbling pair with complementary abilities that come out as they face challenges ranging from finding food to escaping such predators as a mountain lion and a pack of vicious “weaselboars.” By the time they cross a wide river (on a raft steered by “Old Jim,” an otter whose homespun utterances are generally cribbed from Mark Twain—an uneasy reference) back to civilization, the two are BFFs. But can that friendship survive the return, with all the social and familial pressures to resume the old enmity? A climactic cage-match–style confrontation before a worked-up multispecies audience provides the answer. In the illustrations (not seen in finished form) López plops wide-eyed animal heads atop clothed, more or less human forms and adds dialogue balloons for punchlines.

A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-41156-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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