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An entertaining fantasy that prepares readers for more tumultuous series installments.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A daring boy once more travels to a magical realm through a secret doorway in this third installment of a middle-grade adventure series.

Eleven-year-old Hunter Wilson has just returned from an escapade with pirates on a fantastical world. He’s brought back a sword, a wand, and gold pieces as souvenirs. And while he left home through a puddle—acting as a magical Door—he returned from the realm in a neighbor’s house. Now, Hunter is grounded for two weeks. As he curbs his reckless behavior and improves his grades, he misses the excitement and Murphy, the giant dog he befriended on the Door’s other side. He remains on the lookout for another Door, knowing that an evil king sealed them. With his grounding nearly over, Hunter visits his friends Gertrude Clemmons and David Kim. On the way home from Gert’s house, he finds a ring of toadstools. Stepping into the ring causes it to spin. Hunter is transported into the presence of the Elder Folk, or fae, including elves, gnomes, and pixies. They wonder if he’s the legendary Dark Child, seeing in his possession a wand of rowan and an iron sword once belonging to “the Great King of Albion.” Hunter eventually meets King Oberon and Queen Titania, who rule the fae court. Can he find a way to reopen all the Doors between realms? Genzano’s latest Stranger World outing gives readers another genre to dive into, this time traditional fantasy. In his long, descriptive passages are evocative lines: “One tower rose up on a twisting spindle that looked as thin as a flower stem, and then blossomed into a gigantic curving pile of heavy stone.” But sometimes the author assumes his young audience’s familiarity with the classics, mentioning the “Eye of Sauron” from The Lord of the Rings series with no explanation. A larger story is seeded with the appearance of Esthuan Thievesbane, an emissary of the king in the Fortress in the Sky, who’s imprisoned by the fae. The brief chapters about her hint that war may be coming to the Stranger World universe, along with a welcome rise in stakes.

An entertaining fantasy that prepares readers for more tumultuous series installments.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 103

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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