Can three children and their catatonic mother survive crossing the Atlantic in a sailboat? Lots of dubious events swirl through this quick-paced thriller as three young children who have never sailed embark on a boat manned by their mother and her new boyfriend, a seasoned seat-of-the-pants sailor. However, despite his experience, he has just time enough to teach the kids to steer and improbably disable the engine before falling overboard. The three children must take care of mum, who has a history of mental illness and takes to her bed, overwhelmed and silent. Jack and Orrie, the two older kids, speak in a clipped storyline that never hedges. Improbably, they don’t turn back, deciding to cross the Atlantic where their biological father awaits. They alternately stand watches around the clock on their near month-long journey while Andy, the seven-year-old, cooks. And even more unlikely, they eschew rescue by a freighter, facing a Force Ten (violent gale) storm and, yes, surviving. And guess what? Mum wakes up just in time to determine they are (only) 200 miles off course. There is little more than the adventure to recommend this, as author Neale plumbs no depths of the real effects of fear or fatigue. There are some nuances of character, e.g., when Andy tells unresponding Mum a story, or when Jack sails on, fantasizing about a girl he barely met. But this is a gripping narrative, and its simplicity may be ideal for children with trouble reading. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-13920-6

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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


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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?