Though a bit loosey-goosey off the field, this series opener is still an intriguing hybrid of football and sci-fi with...

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LUNAR BLITZ

From the Ultraball series , Vol. 1

Adventure and sports abound in this post-apocalyptic sci-fi debut.

It has been 10 years since Earthfall, and the human race, now all dark skinned with black hair, lives in moon colonies, some named from an assortment of East Asian or Middle Eastern derivations. Shinzo “Strike” Sazaki is captain of Taiko Colony’s Ultraball team. It’s a sport similar to football but played in mechanical Ultrabot suits that enhance players’ physical capabilities. Teams compete for colony pride, and the champions are set for life with fame and fortune. Strike is obsessed with winning this year, his past seasons having been marred by traitors paid off by Zuna, the corrupt governor of North Pole Colony, the richest one on the moon. When a talented player named Boom shows up from the mysterious Dark Side of the moon, Strike reluctantly recruits her despite doubts of her loyalty. Soon secrets begin to unravel, and the team finds itself playing for the survival of their entire colony. While there are plenty of twists to keep readers guessing, inconsistencies in the worldbuilding may have readers puzzling over the lunar political landscape, and occasional odd word choices jar the flow of text. Despite this, every Ultraball game is tightly written with great clarity.

Though a bit loosey-goosey off the field, this series opener is still an intriguing hybrid of football and sci-fi with plenty of butt jokes. (Science fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-280266-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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