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

FIVE CHILDREN ON THE WESTERN FRONT

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 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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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