ABADAZAD

THE ROAD TO INCONCEIVABLE, BOOK 1

Expanded from a well-received comic into a hybrid text-and-graphic-novel format, this first of a planned four episodes introduces sullen-but-sensitive teen diarist Kate Jameson. Still grieving five years after the mysterious disappearance of beloved little brother Matt, she finds herself transported from Brooklyn to the land of Abadazad, the distinctly Oz-like setting of a supposedly fictional series of tales with a distinctly Oz-like publishing history. In frequent illustrations that occasionally expand to take over the plot entirely for a few pages, Kate presents an appealingly homely look, with a bulbous nose and ratty hair offset by big, widely set eyes. That, plus the mix of adolescent hostility and shy vulnerability in her narrative, will win younger readers over, as will Abadazad, with its benevolent three-eyed, blue-skinned Queen, its dessert-bearing trees, odd wildlife and carnivorous Sour Flowers. Kate finds a firm friend and guide in Little Martha, brown-skinned heroine of the original metafictional tales and, receiving confirmation that Matt is alive, kidnapped by Abadazad’s sinister Lanky Man, has her future course laid out. A promising start for readers between Jennifer and Matt Holms’s Babymouse (2005) and Jeff Smith’s Bone (2005). (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4231-0062-X

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action.

THE SILVER ARROW

The best birthday present is a magical train full of talking animals—and a new job.

On Kate’s 11th birthday, she’s surprised by the arrival of rich Uncle Herbert. Uncle Herbert bears a gift: a train. Not a toy train, a 102.36-ton steam engine, with cars that come later. When Kate and her brother, Tom, both white, play in the cab of the Silver Arrow, the train starts up, zooming to a platform packed with animals holding tickets. Thus begins Kate and Tom’s hard work: They learn to conduct the train and feed the fire box, instructed by the Silver Arrow, which speaks via printed paper tape. The Silver Arrow is a glorious playground: The library car is chockablock with books while the candy car is brimful of gobstoppers and gummy bears. But amid the excitement of whistle-blowing and train conducting, Kate and Tom learn quiet messages from their animal friends. Some species, like gray squirrels and starlings, are “invaders.” The too-thin polar bear’s train platform has melted, leaving it almost drowned. Their new calling is more than just feeding the coal box—they need to find a new balance in a damaged world. “Feeling guilty doesn’t help anything,” the mamba tells them. Humans have survived so effectively they’ve taken over the world; now, he says, “you just have to take care of it.” (Illustrations not seen.)

Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53953-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE WRATH OF THE WICKED WEDGIE WOMAN

Trying to salvage failing grades, George and Harold use their handy 3-D Hypno Ring on termagant teacher Ms. Ribble—and succeed only in creating a supervillain with a medusa-like ’do and a yen to conquer the world with wedgie power. Using a pair of robot sidekicks and plenty of spray starch, she even overcomes Captain Underpants. Is it curtains (or rather, wedgies) for all of us? Can the redoubtable fourth graders rescue the Waistband Warrior (a.k.a. Principal Krupp) and find a way to save the day? Well, duh. Not, of course, without an epic battle waged in low-budget Flip-O-Rama, plus no fewer than three homemade comics, including an “Origin of Captain Underpants” in which we learn that his home planet of Underpantyworld was destroyed by the . . . wait for it . . . “Starch Ship Enterprize.” As in the previous four episodes, neither the pace nor the funky humor (“Diapers and toilets and poop . . . oh my!”) lets up for a moment. Pilkey is still having entirely too much fun with this popular series, which continues to careen along with nary a whiff of staleness. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-04999-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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