Pompous, pedantic, school-blazer–sporting Addison Cooke is off to the Gobi Desert.

Addison’s archaeologist aunt and uncle are going on a dig in China, but their colleague has something else in mind: find the secret hoard of Genghis Khan. When his aunt and uncle are kidnapped by a Chinese gang, it’s up to the Gershwin-loving, 13-year-old white boy and his entourage to save them. The story is bloated with what seems like every adventure trope and plot device in existence, including colonizing attitudes, a “city of the dead,” a trail of cryptic clues leading to an ancient treasure hidden deep beneath a cave, a soothsaying shaman (who speaks the “sacred language” of English), a legacy to save the world, and the pièce de résistance: a prophecy involving the hero’s death. Constant reference to the group as Addison’s “team” implies hierarchy: a white boy in charge of a white girl and two male ethnic others. There’s Addison’s sister, Molly, and his best friends, Eddie Chang, a feminized Chinese boy afraid of his own shadow, and Indian Raj Bhandari, a camo-wearing survival expert. The third-person narrative is from bumptious Addison’s viewpoint, with some miscellaneous hopping into other characters’ heads for a beat or two. Despite fast-paced action scenes dominating the nearly 500 pages, it’s still a slog.

Been there, done that. (Adventure. 8-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-17378-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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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

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