Fourteen-year-old Jack has built his own canoe, and on a hot August dawn, he sets off for her maiden voyage in his beloved Okefenokee Swamp. Jack’s a lot like Sam of the author’s My Side of the Mountain (1959): at home in his environment and able to fend for himself. He intends to stay for only a little while, but is drawn into an adventure that changes his life. The first three days are idyllic, and George brings the swamp to life with sweeping descriptions of the waters, birds, and plants of the region. Then Jack discovers he can’t get back to his home because of a blockage on the river. He spots an island and heads for it, but just as he begins to land, an alligator attacks the canoe, rips a great gash, and charges him. Nimbly, he pole-vaults with his paddle onto land and is able to drag the canoe to safety. With only a machete and a Leatherman knife, he sets out to create a campsite, build a tree house of sorts for sleeping, and figure a way to repair the canoe. An Airedale wanders in and, to his surprise, answers to his own dog’s name, Dizzy. A few days later, he returns to his campsite to find a boy who looks exactly like him. He has come, he says, for his dog. His voice has a soft Georgia twang to it, but, other than that, the two boys are identical. Jake Leed is adopted and asks Jack if he is too, but Jack vehemently denies it. In the next few days, along with multiple adventures, Jack faces the fact that he and Jake are identical twins. He’s never known he’s adopted and doesn’t want to confront his parents with his news, but Jake decides they will face both parents together. The ending is a pleasant and satisfying surprise. Though the story has many subplots, the star is the swamp itself, and this naturalist deftly keeps its life in focus as she weaves her tale. The ink sketches of flowers and scenery are an attractive addition. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-000254-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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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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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...


A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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