For a more gripping and nuanced portrayal of individuals pushing and pulling together, try Fallout by Todd Strasser (2013)

CAVE-IN

From the Stay Alive series , Vol. 2

With this second book in the Stay Alive series, youngsters will see a formula emerge: A group of children in the care of mostly ineffective adults are in a remote location when disaster strikes.

To signal the severity, someone dies; another is critically injured; a third risks everything to get help. Meanwhile, the person who delivered them to the site conveniently dies before communicating the coordinates. In this case, the setting is Maine’s Hog Island Ledge, where six students and two teachers camp for five days. A bizarrely destructive earthquake (Maine is hardly a hotbed of tectonic activity) hits while the group is exploring the island’s Civil War–era fort, trapping them. As in series opener Crash (2014), the book is broken into three parts, each starting with a survival tip. Part 1 describes the cave-in; 2, the desperate dig-out; 3, survival without food, water or means to communicate. Readers may question why a quake causing significant damage on an island that is visible from the mainland and the site of one of the region’s most recognizable landmarks would not spark media coverage, parental concern and subsequent search. And as in the first book, there is no before or after for this crew, only the catastrophe and how they cope. Thus, although the pace is brisk, the characters are one-dimensional and hard to care about, especially the selfish Sandy, who never changes or gets her comeuppance. 

For a more gripping and nuanced portrayal of individuals pushing and pulling together, try Fallout by Todd Strasser (2013) . (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-56352-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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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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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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