Another just-average mystery/adventure tale that reads much like a travelogue.



From the Wild World of Buck Bray series , Vol. 2

Buck, 11-year-old star of a series of nature films for television, is back for a second outing, this time in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park.

Buck and his dad, both white, and their photographer and his Asian daughter, Toni, are planning to film Pueblo ruins, but after meeting up with a Navajo teen who calls himself Nash (short for Náshdóítsoh) and speaks in infodumps even when not giving formal programs to campers, they learn of dinosaur tracks and fossils located nearby and add these to their filming plans. Nick, a boy they meet while camping, begins to follow Toni and Buck around, creating friction between the pair. Buck is convinced that Nick is stealing things; Toni is pretty sure that Buck is just jealous. But villains are an essential part of the mix in this series, so some of Nick’s evil ways are quickly revealed. That a trusted adult they’ve encountered is also involved in the theft of antiquities (for no obvious reason) comes as a greater surprise, putting intrepid (but impulsive) Buck and Toni in real danger. Much of the narrative is taken up with the presentation of information about the realistically depicted canyons of Utah, diminishing character development to a minimum and sometimes slowing the pace to a crawl. This is punctuated by some exciting moments, including a suspenseful climactic chase scene.

Another just-average mystery/adventure tale that reads much like a travelogue. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58536-368-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read.


The prolific king of the beach read is back with an intergenerational mystery for the 9-to-12-year-old set.

Ali Cross, the son of Patterson’s most famous creation, African American homicide detective Alex Cross, is “starting to think the worst might have happened” to his mixed-race friend Gabriel “Gabe” Qualls, who disappeared on Dec. 21 and hasn’t been heard from as of Christmas Eve, when the book opens. Ali offers an impromptu prayer for Gabe at the pre-holiday service at his all-black church as well as an impromptu press conference outside of it as journalists and paparazzi confront Alex about his alleged coma-inducing assault of a murder suspect’s father. Then someone robs the Crosses’ home that night along with four other homes; the Crosses’ Christmas gifts are stolen. Ali, obsessed with finding Gabe and feeling that these events will distract his dad and the police from searching for him, starts his own investigation—complete with looking at some contraband footage of Gabe’s unusually loaded backpack obtained by Ali’s stepmother, also a cop—and questioning his school and gaming pals, a diverse group. Writing in Ali’s voice with occasional cutaways to third-person chapters that follow Alex, Patterson sprinkles the narrative with pop-culture references even as he takes readers through the detective process.

Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53041-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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