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Cleverly crafted and convincingly episodic, with a dose of madcap humor.

A pair of bold girls, a wildcat, and a fugitive prince team up to reclaim a kingdom.

Twelve-year-olds Rosebud and Wilda make it their mission to steal from the army of their kingdom’s tyrannical usurper, Otto the Torch. Their small gang, known as the Blackhearts, is accompanied by Wilda’s “mostly tame” lynx, Wryclaw. Otto’s reign has been marked by the burning of much of the country of Rin and the murder of its citizens, including Rosebud’s father, Sir Herman the Loyal. The girls agree to journey with Prince Timo, who’s fleeing from Otto, into the enchanted Nowhere Wood to find the magical object that will remove the hexed wolf mask from Timo’s head and thwart Otto’s plans to execute Queen Gisela for witchcraft. Nowhere Wood is satisfyingly full of menace and wonder, including a friendly (if slightly dim) giant, a crowd of tiny fairies who capture and plan to deliver the Blackhearts to the vicious Huntsman, a village where the adults have disappeared, a blind clockmaker, a man lost in the mines and subsisting on a fungus called Blue Shroomies, and an irascible albino dragon. Among the sly easter eggs for older readers are mentions of Rik Rolls, dice game cheats named after the bard Rik from Astley Isle. The descriptions of the humans suggest a mostly white cast of characters.

Cleverly crafted and convincingly episodic, with a dose of madcap humor. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781665930345

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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