Lacking as a total package, but the interactive bits promise hours of undercover fun.

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SPIES INC.

THE ADVENTURES OF DASH DANGER

This interactive spy caper entices kids to concoct their own detective missions while helping the main character solve a sweet-tasting mystery.

The unnamed fifth-grade narrator of this short, spirited story is entrusted with an assignment—if he knows what’s good for him, says school bully Biff Vermin, he’ll figure out a way to snag the coveted but top-secret recipe of the cafeteria’s cupcake frosting. But first he must pitch a plan to get past the hilariously illustrated keeper of said treats—the Lunch Lady (think hairnet, crooked glasses, 200-pound sacks of flower under both arms, all on a behemoth of a woman with a gargantuan waistline atop toothpick legs). Unsure of where to start, the boy looks for tips in the latest book of his favorite series, The Adventures of Dash Danger (excerpts from the series begin each chapter). Following Dash Danger’s example, he creates an alias, develops a disguise and pencils a blueprint featuring directions on how he’ll sneak into the cafeteria’s kitchen. Although the boy’s strategy backfires, Biff still snags the cupcake recipe, leaving advanced spies to wonder why Biff couldn’t just find it on his own in the first place. Despite a jacket design and some illustrations that look suspiciously derivative of those that populate Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, the book’s black-and-white sketches possess all the cool, classic elements of an Inspector Gadget and Spy vs. Spy hybrid. While the play-by-play of the narrator’s dilemma might wear thin on seasoned snoops, and the 50 pages of lined paper included at the end of the book seem excessive, those glitches don’t matter in the long run. Kids—especially reluctant readers—might be too busy making up their own spy names and drawing themselves in undercover disguises to notice.

Lacking as a total package, but the interactive bits promise hours of undercover fun.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2010

ISBN: 978-0982755204

Page Count: -

Publisher: Storybuilders

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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