Wiseacre Nick Thorpe saves his friends, town, planet, and universe—along with an entire alien race—in this madcap sequel to Can of Worms (1999) and Eggs in One Basket (2000). And just in time for Christmas, too. Nick gets a feeling that something’s amiss when he twice falls into a time warp that allows him to roam invisibly through a suspended world. So, should he try to discover what’s going on, or just sneak a peek into the girls’ locker room? As it eventually turns out, Bayurd, a unicorn from planet Grayle with a horn that can cleave the space-time continuum, has escaped the clutches of the nefarious Draconians, but is wandering Earth in search of both rescue and its ordained rider, Reynald. Armed with a bottomless arsenal of insults, Nick outfaces fire-breathing Conflagrons, a lawyer shaped like a stinky, giant slug, and other interstellar interlopers, all while struggling to cope with some inner demons. By the end, not only is Nick good for both rescue and reunion, he has spent time volunteering in a homeless shelter, managed to come to terms with his parents’ divorce, and firmed up a friendship with Jill, heartthrob sister of geeky friend Mike Pillsbury—both met in previous adventures. There’s a touch of mysticism to Nick’s tale, as well as (despite the happy ending) dark streaks on the general emotional landscape. Still, Nick’s ability to cope with unusual (to say the very least) situations, plus plenty of nonstop action, fizzy relationships and a crowd-pleasing array of aliens will keep readers firmly hooked from start to finish. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-029414-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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From the Joey Pigza series , Vol. 1

If Rotten Ralph were a boy instead of a cat, he might be Joey, the hyperactive hero of Gantos's new book, except that Joey is never bad on purpose. In the first-person narration, it quickly becomes clear that he can't help himself; he's so wound up that he not only practically bounces off walls, he literally swallows his house key (which he wears on a string around his neck and which he pull back up, complete with souvenirs of the food he just ate). Gantos's straightforward view of what it's like to be Joey is so honest it hurts. Joey has been abandoned by his alcoholic father and, for a time, by his mother (who also drinks); his grandmother, just as hyperactive as he is, abuses Joey while he's in her care. One mishap after another leads Joey first from his regular classroom to special education classes and then to a special education school. With medication, counseling, and positive reinforcement, Joey calms down. Despite a lighthearted title and jacket painting, the story is simultaneously comic and horrific; Gantos takes readers right inside a human whirlwind where the ride is bumpy and often frightening, especially for Joey. But a river of compassion for the characters runs through the pages, not only for Joey but for his overextended mom and his usually patient, always worried (if only for their safety) teachers. Mature readers will find this harsh tale softened by unusual empathy and leavened by genuinely funny events. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-33664-4

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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A patchy tale flickering repeatedly from light to dark and back.


From the Phantom Files series

Alex’s ability to talk with ghosts puts him in famous company when he and his mom move to Hannibal, Missouri.

Alex, 13, is driven by bitter determination to keep his lifelong ability secret, since it’s already led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia that drove his parents apart and cost his mother a decent job, but it’s not easy. For one thing, his new friend, Bones, is a positively obsessed amateur ghost hunter, and for another, ghosts just won’t leave him alone no matter how rudely he treats them. Notable among the latter is Mark Twain himself, as acerbic and wily as he was in life, who is on the verge of involuntarily degenerating into a raging poltergeist unless Alex can find the unspecified, titular treasure. Alex’s search takes him through Clemens’ writings and tragic private life as well as many of the town’s related attractions on the way to a fiery climax in the public library. Meanwhile, Alex has an apotheosis of his own, deciding that lying to conceal his ability and his unhappy past isn’t worth the sacrifice of a valued friendship. Conveniently for the plot’s needs, Clemens and other ghosts can interact with the physical world at will. Wolfe parlays Alex’s ingrained inability to ignore ectoplasmic accosters into some amusing cross-conversations that help lighten his protagonist’s hard inner tests. The cast, living and otherwise, presents as white.

A patchy tale flickering repeatedly from light to dark and back. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-940924-29-8

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Dreaming Robot

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

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