A story of self-empowerment told with wry humor and purpose.

THE TERRIBLE THING THAT HAPPENED TO BARNABY BROCKET

Barnaby Brocket has been defying the laws of gravity since the day he was born. Now, at the ripe old age of 8, his life continues to be ruled by this fact: If he’s not held down by outside forces, he floats. 

And as if that wasn’t enough of a problem, he also happens to have been born into “the most normal family who ever lived in the Southern Hemisphere.” Unfortunately, his mother and father have about as much compassion as the Dursleys of Harry Potter fame or the Wormwood parents in Roald Dahl’s Matilda. They are so obsessed with maintaining normality that they not only send him to “The Graveling Academy for Unwanted Children,” but are led to do something even more perfectly awful and unparentlike, which changes the course of Barnaby’s life forever. Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, 2006) is no stranger to difficult topics and uses this fanciful tale to explore being different and how to cope with it with wit and imagination. On his sometimes harrowing and fantastical odyssey back to his Australian home, Barnaby meets an amazing array of people similarly rejected by their families. All of his experiences ultimately prove to be character-building, if repetitive in their themes. 

A story of self-empowerment told with wry humor and purpose. (Fable. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-97762-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

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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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.

The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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