Even readers without twins will identify with the universal truths of being a sibling.

THE TROUBLE WITH TWINS

If Lemony Snicket penned a story on twins it might be similar to this debut novel about the intriguing relationship between Arabella and Henrietta.

Nobody can understand why the identical, white twin girls seem different, but the trouble begins at birth, when Arabella arrives more beautiful than Henrietta. And nobody notices that because of this difference, they favor Arabella and slight Henrietta with increasing cruelty. After years of mistreatment and neglect, Henrietta, as many jealous siblings have been wont to do, uses her mother’s scissors to cut off Arabella’s bangs. In a now oft-used metafictive style, a mother (whose identity readers discover later) narrates this tale to her daughter, whose questions interrupt the gothic humor and pithy commentary to expound on details and vocabulary. The real story focuses on the consequences of Henrietta’s actions on both twins. Ever the scorned sibling, Henrietta is sent to live with her reclusive great-aunt, Priscilla, who dresses completely in black and requires her new guest to make fish-head soup. Once separated from Arabella, however, Henrietta begins to learn resiliency in unexpected ways—and likewise, Arabella learns a few lessons about empathy on her own. Black-and-white illustrations, reminiscent of Sophie Blackall and even Edward Gorey, enhance the mood and humor.

Even readers without twins will identify with the universal truths of being a sibling. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93273-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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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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