Regrettably, misses the mark.


A servant boy and his friends want to break free of a life of bowing and scraping—but at what cost?

Boot boy Jiyong, stable girl Sally, and governess Rozario dream of living lives that matter, and trying to rescue Sally’s brother, Chibo, from a deadly tapestry-weaving job seems like a good place to start. So when the Summer Queen invites Ji’s “almost” friend, the orphaned noble Brace, to pursue a magical challenge to become the heir to the throne, Ji willingly faces goblins and death for the opportunity to accompany Brace to the city. Brace, alas, may not be the friend whom Ji hopes him to be nor the sufficiently developed character that readers require. The action progresses in fairly predictable ways but will nonetheless appease the voracious appetites of unblinking middle-grade readers. As with Ross’ Fog Diver (2015), this band of misfits features appealing, memorable, and apparently racially diverse characters; one character’s casual complication of gender and identity is particularly fresh and funny. Still, critical readers—and those who value nuance and fact—will be troubled by Ross’ slapdash appropriation of cultures in what is otherwise original fantasy. It’s perhaps an attempt to diversify the genre, but it falls short, inexplicably importing real cultural references (terra-cotta warriors, haciendas, kimchi buns, churros) into a fantasy world without context or rationale.

Regrettably, misses the mark. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-248459-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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