Full STEAM ahead on a series debut equally charged with personal issues and science in (dramatic) action.


From the Elements of Genius series , Vol. 1

The Genius Academy turns out to be about more than dull classwork, as a lonely young inventor discovers.

Unable, despite her mother’s earnest pleas, to stop concocting devices like the death ray that blows a hole through the floor, Nikola reluctantly agrees to be shipped off to a (supposed) boarding school for geniuses. Hardly has she arrived, though, than the death ray is stolen and Nikki discovers that she and her six classmates are actually a team of secret agents employed to save the world on a regular basis. Fortunately, the young folk are an unusually talented bunch. Unfortunately, Nikki has a lot to learn about teamwork, trust, and friendship before the trail of clues dropped by the thief leads to a tense and twisty climax. Cleverly modeling her preteen cast on a gallery of historical geniuses, Keating has done her homework: Nikki reflects her near namesake not only in her work on electrical inventions, but also in other respects from eidetic memory to deep-seated distrust of others. Likewise, her associates include sharply observant Mary Shelley, musical and math prodigy Adam “Mo” Mozart, biology whiz Charlotte Darwin, and multiskilled Leo da Vinci. The white default is in place, but the kids’ adult overseer has dark skin, and in Marlin’s illustrations so do Mo and charismatic team leader Grace O’Malley.

Full STEAM ahead on a series debut equally charged with personal issues and science in (dramatic) action. (author’s note) (Science fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-29521-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.


The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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