A rich story with plenty of surprising plot twists and a strong undercurrent of female empowerment; kudos for the reminder...

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THE ROSE LEGACY

From the Rose Legacy series , Vol. 1

In this middle-grade fantasy, orphan Anthea is sent from Coronam to live with her uncle beyond the Wall, where she learns that not everything she was taught to believe is the truth.

Coronam—a kingdom that fears horses as monsters—is all Anthea knows until she is sent to live at her uncle Andrew’s in the Exiled Lands beyond the Wall. The Wall, Coronami children are taught, was built to protect them from the plague-bearing horses that nearly destroyed the kingdom centuries ago. Anthea, not remembering she was born at Last Farm, her uncle’s estate, is horrified to discover that he raises horses. Then she re-meets Florian, a stallion she had a special bond with as a small child, and experiences the Way: the ability to communicate telepathically with the horses. George’s plot is original and taut, and the tension ramps up when Anthea learns that the Coronami have not told the truth about the Wall or the horses. The relationship Anthea has with her cousin Jilly is both adversarial and affectionate, and sparklingly authentic, and Anthea and Florian’s bond, emphasized by narrative segments from Florian’s perspective, steers clear of maudlin. The book subscribes to the white default.

A rich story with plenty of surprising plot twists and a strong undercurrent of female empowerment; kudos for the reminder to readers that what lives beyond a Wall may be a lot like them. (Fantasy.10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59990-647-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

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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