A grand, well-rounded adventure that mixes nature, Native American lore, and the history of the Desolation Canyon region.

DESOLATION CANYON

From the Aaron's Wilderness series

London’s (The Seasons of Little Wolf, 2014) middle-grade novel follows six people on a transformative rafting trip.

Twelve-year-old Aaron and his father have embarked on a whitewater rafting trip down the Green River in the Desolation Canyon area of Utah. Joining them are their guide, Roger; his 12-year-old daughter; Lisa, Wild Man Willie; and his 16-year-old son, Cassidy. In 1991, the three fathers served together in the Iraq War. Since then, they’ve raised three very different children. Aaron is lanky and thoughtful; Lisa is a veteran river rafter; and Cassidy is a genuine juvenile delinquent who entered a detention center after beating a man with a baseball bat when he was 14. They clash early. Cassidy’s penchants for bullying (i.e. hurling large rocks) and risk-taking worry the other kids. To complicate matters, Aaron develops a crush on Lisa, whom he hopes to impress by mastering his first rafting experience. When Cassidy disrespects Aaron’s dad both physically and verbally, the trip starts to fall apart. Eventually, these two couple up in their own raft, only to vanish around a bend. A suspicious scrap of evidence nearly confirms Aaron’s worst fear as the group frantically searches the river and surrounding desert. The latest from YA author London is a wise and wonderful reading experience for anyone who loves—or is just learning to love—natural history. The briskly flowing narrative contains great details about desert life, always offered in lovely prose: “Here and there sparse forests of pinyon pine and juniper were clinging tenaciously to the high slopes and cliffs.” Elsewhere, London delivers some vivid characterization; we’re told that Cassidy has more “tattoos on his body than teeth in his head.” Most importantly, London provides space for sublime moments to blossom, including the nighttime scene when “the river flowed by, mirroring the Milky Way.” This coming-of-age tale also features enchanting illustrations by the author’s son, Sean.

A grand, well-rounded adventure that mixes nature, Native American lore, and the history of the Desolation Canyon region.

Pub Date: April 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1941821602

Page Count: 168

Publisher: WestWinds Press

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

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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