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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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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