This is one trilogy that ends on a high note.

THE LOST LULLABY

From the Nightmares! series , Vol. 3

Charlie Laird faces off against ICK and INK in the finale of the Nightmares! trilogy.

Charlie and his friends foiled ICK and INK’s plot involving the Tranquility Tonic (The Sleepwalker Tonic, 2015), but many mysteries remain. What is ICK and INK’s endgame? Why is INK suddenly enrolled in Charlie’s school? And will Charlie finally work up the courage to ask Paige out? All is answered in this final volume, which returns to the standard set by series opener Nightmares! (2014). The authors delight in turning bread crumbs dropped in prior entries into full-on sandwiches; ICK and INK are compelling antagonists, fully realized and just as emotionally complex as the heroes. Charlie’s relationships with his brother and stepmother deepen, but unfortunately his relationship with Paige stays in neutral. While it’s hard to fault Charlie for focusing on the danger the world is facing rather than his love life, fans who’ve watched these two kids dance around each other for three years now will get a bit fidgety. This is a testament to the authors’ achievement in crafting smart, funny, and empathetic heroes and villains that anchor this trilogy in an emotional reality few middle-grade series achieve. The Netherworld is filled with imaginative creatures and critters, the humor remains silly and fun, and the characters (somewhat diverse, judging by the cover, though Charlie is white) remain engaging.

This is one trilogy that ends on a high note. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2016

ISBN: 9780385744256

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.

The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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