A nostalgic Dickens and Nesbit mashup.


From the Wishes and Wellingtons series , Vol. 1

A magical sardine can brings a Victorian girl the promise of three wishes.

Stuck at Miss Salamanca’s School for Upright Young Ladies, Maeve Merritt, prone to foul language and fisticuffs, wants a life of her own making filled with travel and cricket, not the stultifying life dictated by family and society. But an unopened sardine can found in a rubbish pile brings the unexpected arrival of Mermeros, an ancient djinni. Will Maeve lose her integrity to greed like all the previous djinni masters? Soon Maeve, her roommate Alice, and local orphan Tom are in the midst of more adventure, blackmail, and danger than they ever imagined possible. Maeve’s first-person narrative moves swiftly, peppered by her droll observations and witty dialogue. Small details weave together to create an engaging tapestry that becomes more complex and compelling with every page turn. Maeve is highly possessive of her good fortune, but an altruistic eleventh-hour choice leads to happy endings for all after she wrestles with her conscience and ponders the gap between rich and poor. When Maeve and Tommy raid the sarcophagus of a long-ago Persian king, Alice pushes back against the theft. Human characters are cued as White; the cover shows Maeve with brown skin and black hair, but her appearance and ethnicity are not described in the text. (This review has been updated to reflect a change between the advance reader copy and final edition.)

A nostalgic Dickens and Nesbit mashup. (Historical fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-2325-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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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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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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