Trials, tempests, and triumphs in a still-beguiling Italian country setting.


From the Witches of Benevento series

Gender expectations get a tweak with the arrival of a new little sibling for twins Emilio and Rosa.

Following a loud refusal to join the women who have gathered to help Momma through labor, Rosa’s life takes such a turn for the worse—diapers, housework, cooking, ugh—that at last she furiously runs off to live in the trees (till dinnertime). She creates an even bigger stir by insisting on signing up for the formerly boys-only Great Hunt of the Boar, promising her shocked father she’ll return to her despised domestic duties if she loses. (She doesn’t lose.) Meanwhile, Emilio is thrilled by the new arrival (“Is it a boy or a girl?” “Why don’t you look for yourself?”). He just feigns reluctance to take over child care duties after his sister threatens to disclose his secret reading, and he avoids signing up for the hunt himself but coaches Rosa on the best techniques for success. As in earlier episodes, on nearly every page Blackall deftly captures the characters of fiery Rosa, gentle Emilio, and the rest of Benevento’s olive-skinned country cast in her two-color sketches. Also as in most of the earlier volumes, the local supernatural residents remain present but just out of sight…though a closing revelation hints that that may not always be the case.

Trials, tempests, and triumphs in a still-beguiling Italian country setting. (historical and cultural afterwords) (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-425-29151-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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


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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