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Readers familiar with the classic will probably be dissatisfied with this vision of it; readers unfamiliar with it will be...

Six characters from a classic work of light British fantasy are resurrected, then two of them are sent to the trenches of World War I.

If that doesn’t sound like a surefire recipe for success, that’s because it isn’t. The six characters are E. Nesbit’s titular Five Children and It, “It” being the irascible, wish-granting Psammead, discovered in 1903 by Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane, and baby “the Lamb.” After an ominous prologue, the story begins in 1914 as a sixth child, 9-year-old Edie, and the Lamb, now 11, dig the Psammead up again. He stays with the family throughout the war, as Cyril and Robert go off to fight, Anthea becomes a nurse and falls in love, Jane struggles against convention to become a doctor, and Edie and the Lamb grow into adolescence. Saunders gives the Psammead a convoluted back story and sins to atone for, which mysteriously trigger spectral visits to the front. He is a thoroughly denatured Psammead, cranky but also soggy and sentimental. Saunders does not attempt to emulate Nesbit's direct narrative address, but she does lard the dialogue with “brick”s and “bounder”s to evoke the period. As the Nesbit classic is not much read in the United States these days and World War I has little resonance with U.S. middle-graders, it’s hard to say who the stateside audience is.

Readers familiar with the classic will probably be dissatisfied with this vision of it; readers unfamiliar with it will be mystified. (Historical fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-49793-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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