A particularly rough-hewn addition to the “magic school” shelf, with very little magic in sight.


From the Isle of Misfits series , Vol. 1

A gargoyle with a broken horn finds both work and a team at a secret school for mythological creatures.

Though properly taught to protect buildings and their residents (gargoyles’ function as rainspouts go unmentioned), Gibbon has been driven by boredom into dropping snowballs onto passers-by and like pranks. Suddenly, though, he’s whisked off to the Isle of Misfits, where the young and the restless are gathered to learn how to be better adjusted (“proper monsters”) and to appreciate the value of teamwork. It’s a whole new world for him, and he quickly bonds with four fellow students—a fairy with anger issues, a big and clumsy dragon, a yeti dude with a man bun, and a gentle griffin who can’t get the knack of flying. Initially, monkeylike Gibbon messes up an obstacle relay race by trying to take all the legs himself, but then at a later one he works with rather than against his friends to earn second place…or, as it turns out, first, because their malign, bullying competitors (“a green troll, a hairy gremlin, a slimy ghoul, and a baba yaga”) cheated. The prize is to skip class for a “mission” (see next episode). With rare exception, everyone in both the narrative and Hartas’ flurries of small sketched scenes seems to belong to a different species; fairy Fiona is depicted with brown skin. Despite their outward forms they’re all standard-issue kid types, if not stereotypes, and as unvarnished as the heavy-handed values education: “You need to learn how to work with your team, Gibbon. Your slacking off only makes it harder for the rest of us.”

A particularly rough-hewn addition to the “magic school” shelf, with very little magic in sight. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0822-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.


After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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