Witches never actually step into sight, but their offstage presence adds shivery hints of danger to this lightweight opener.

MISCHIEF SEASON

From the Witches of Benevento series , Vol. 1

Of all the magical residents in an Italian town long renowned for its various sorts of witches, the mischievous Janara may be the most mysterious—and troublesome.

By day disguised as neighbors or even relatives, the Janara become invisible with a spell (plus dabs of magic oil in the armpits) at night and set out to play such tricks as (ugh) feeding through a straw inserted up a sleeper’s nose and down into his or her stomach. Thus, when bossy young Rosa wakes one morning itchy of schnoz and starving, it’s time for her and her considerably less obnoxious twin, Emilio, to seek help. But all their efforts only result in further and more widespread “mischiefs,” until town idler Amerigo Pegleg reluctantly admits that oregano is like catnip to the Janara (and he should know). Shrugging off Rosa’s ill-tempered skepticism, Emilio rubs fistfuls of the herb around house and yard, and peace is soon restored. Loosely based on folklore and decorated with Blackall’s two-color drawings of elfin figures in country dress on nearly every page, the comical tale kicks off a projected series set in the picturesque town. Appendices on spell casting and on Benevento’s witchly history (not seen) will cap each episode. Volume 2, The All-Powerful Ring, publishes simultaneously.

Witches never actually step into sight, but their offstage presence adds shivery hints of danger to this lightweight opener. (town map) (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-451-47181-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

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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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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