An auspicious trilogy opener.



From the Uncommoners series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Ivy and her brother Seb, 14, discover a surprising parallel world of uncommon objects and people when their grandmother is injured just after Christmas.

A serendipitous acquaintance, brown-skinned Valian, transports white Ivy and Seb to the cavernous under-London site of an annual “uncommon” market, Lundinor, a kind of enormous Diagon Alley. Here objects containing bits of souls behave in unusual, seemingly magical ways: lemon squeezers glow as lamps; the local police force zaps recalcitrant suspects with toilet brushes; belts can lift their holders aloft. The uncommoners are devoted to acquiring and trading in these phenomenal occurrences of otherwise quotidian objects. An often told family story about their grandmother’s girlhood car accident and amnesia takes on new meaning as Ivy and Seb’s parents are held for ransom until someone produces the Great Uncommon Good—an uncommon object of extraordinary value sought for its potential to wield power in the common world. The resident community of the dead, formerly in service to the dark ambition of a trading guild known as the Dirge, is filled with both good and nefarious sorts—ghouls, selkies, hobs, and multiple others. Bell’s worldbuilding is convincing and good-humored, full of detail and a rich variety of unusual manifestations and people. There’s plenty of exposition and back story to support the adventure promised to continue in subsequent volumes of this trilogy.

An auspicious trilogy opener. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-49843-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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From the Moon Base Alpha series , Vol. 1

When Dr. Holtz’s body is discovered just outside the lunar colony, everyone assumes he made a mistake putting on his spacesuit—but 12-year-old Dashiell “Dash” Gibson has reason to believe this was no accident.

Earth’s first space base has been a living hell for Dash. There’s not much to do on the moon besides schoolwork and virtual-reality gaming, and there’s only a handful of kids his age up there with him. The chance to solve a murder is exactly the type of excitement Dash needs. As clues are found and secrets are uncovered, Dash comes to understand that some of the base’s residents aren’t what they seem to be. With a small cast of characters supplying an excellent variety of suspects, Gibbs creates the best kind of “murder on a train” mystery. The genius, however, is putting the train in space. Closed quarters and techno–mumbo-jumbo add delightful color to the proceedings. Thankfully, the author doesn’t let the high-concept setting overshadow the novel’s mystery. The whodunit is smartly paced and intricately plotted. Best of all, the reveal is actually worth all the buildup. Thrillers too often fly off the rails in their final moments, but the author’s steady hand keeps everything here on track.

Fully absorbing. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9486-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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