A brave, winsome hero leads an action-packed, satisfying finale.


A girl joins the war against evil wizards threatening a magical world in this conclusion to a middle-grade fantasy series.

One day, Alex suddenly found herself in a world of Latin, mathematics, and magic. Since then, she’s made many friends, some of whom she’s sadly lost in the fight against sinister Master Wizards Diades and Demetrius. Power-hungry Diades, in particular, wants to enslave people and kill anyone who defies him. Alex and her winged ally, Daedalus, infiltrate the evil wizards’ Black Castle to steal back her calculator, a device capable of releasing magic spells. Meanwhile, King Nosaj leads people on an arduous trek through the mountains to the Black Castle. This puts everyone, including the world’s Guardians, in danger from avalanches and unbearable fatigue. While more of Alex’s comrades fall in battle, she reunites with a friend she believed had perished as well as one of Diades’ now-liberated captives. Some are certain Alex is the “missing variable” who will help save this realm, though even she doesn’t know how she’ll do it—or how she’ll return to her own world. As in the preceding installments, this fourth and final novel boasts an entertaining narrative populated by Greek historical figures like Aristotle. West’s story begins at full-tilt, with characters either heading into battle or bracing themselves for the inevitable confrontation. Accordingly, knowledge of the earlier books is a necessity. Recurring protagonist Alex is valiant though prone to feelings of guilt over others’ deaths, even when she’s not at fault. She and the rest of the cast populate vivid, concisely written action scenes: “The intense heat of a fireball scorched the air around them, burning their already stinging eyes and searing their lungs as they sobbed.” While the ending battle delivers surprises, the denouement is predictable, albeit gratifying.

A brave, winsome hero leads an action-packed, satisfying finale. (Latin translations, author bio)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-69-179094-2

Page Count: 267

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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