A fresh and pleasing Continental sojourn for chapter-book readers.


From the Witches of Benevento series , Vol. 2

Primo is sure that the gold ring he finds in a fish’s stomach must have magical powers. But what are they?

This is the second in a series featuring five young cousins living in an Italian town renowned for its witches. It opens with a letter from a local demon about the town’s (purported) supernatural residents, closes with a more expansive “Witchonary,” and in between chronicles Primo’s efforts to prove his courage and his newly found ring’s magic. But nothing goes right: his prank-loving cousin Rosa refuses to take his claims seriously; an all-night vigil is wasted when the witchy, mischief-making Janara fail to appear; and his quest is trumped by cousin Maria Beppina, who is (supposedly) captured by the scary Clopper after she borrows the ring and reappears with a hair-raising tale. Ultimately an encounter, or a near-encounter anyway, with a child-snatching Manalonga draws praise from Primo’s peers, and all race away to dance the tarantella at a village party. Blackall places her gesticulating, expressive figures, clad in antique country dress, between and beside passages of narrative; they have a timeless look in keeping with the episode’s folkloric air. As in co-published opener Mischief Season, magic weaves its way through both setting and events without quite becoming explicit.

A fresh and pleasing Continental sojourn for chapter-book readers. (map, historical note) (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-451-47180-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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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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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.


After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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