While debut author Ormsbee’s use of language is laudable and the fantasy details are imaginative, they cannot compensate for...

THE WATER AND THE WILD

From the Water and the Wild series , Vol. 1

Two things make 12-year-old orphan Lottie Fiske’s sad life happier: her friendship with Eliot and the magical apple tree near her boardinghouse.

Every year, Lottie receives birthday presents in a hole at the base of the tree—the exact presents she has requested. This year, Eliot is incurably ill, with just a few weeks to live, so she wishes for his recovery; that birthday, a white finch appears. One day Lottie discovers a sprite in her closet. Adelaide Wilfer takes her “root shooting” in the apple tree to another world layered below Lottie’s. Adelaide’s father is a healer (and the birthday gift–giver) working on medicine for the Otherwise Incurable. Lottie discovers she is a Halfling—half human and half sprite—and also is the Heir of Fiske, which seems to have some significance. When the cruel king of this world kidnaps Mr. Wilfer, Lottie, Adelaide, her brother, Oliver, and a halfling sprite-wisp named Fife journey to the castle to find Mr. Wilfer and the medicine for Eliot. The arduous journey involves magical creatures, a swamp of oblivion, strangling vines, travel through plague-ridden wisp territory and more. Lottie is spunky and likable; the interplay among the four travelers is engaging. Unfortunately, the protracted story introduces unexplained elements and has a weak, confusing ending.

While debut author Ormsbee’s use of language is laudable and the fantasy details are imaginative, they cannot compensate for the novel’s flaws. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-1386-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Rescues and kittens by the carload, with a bit of inner growth on the side.

BASTILLE VS. THE EVIL LIBRARIANS

From the Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series , Vol. 6

Previous prognostications of failure and doom notwithstanding, this bustling entry features miraculous survivals and just deserts for the biblio-baddies.

Switching narrators in the wake of devastating deeds at the end of The Dark Talent (2016), the co-authors pick up the action with stern, stab-happy Bastille describing her rescue of traumatized Alcatraz Smedry from a Library of Congress that is filling up with lava, then a desperate effort to keep ultra-evil librarian Biblioden the Scrivener from forcing the world’s remaining Free Kingdoms to check themselves out permanently. Despite her own forewarnings of a disastrous ending and stern suggestion to start with Volume 1 for the backstory, she does fill in enough of what’s going on for readers to keep pace—and in characteristically take-no-prisoners tones, lays out a rip-roaring tale in which she fulfills her role as Alcatraz’s protector with plenty of brisk (if bloodless) sword work and an unshakeable loyalty that, along with the occasional punch, draws him out of a paralyzing slough of guilt and self-loathing. A climactic battle features a horde of bloodthirsty kittens and a ravenous, punning monster—followed by hints that surviving librarians may be taking up worthier missions and, since Bastille insists on the veracity of this account, credible reasons why people the world around have talents for being late, breaking things, and like peccadillos. Most of the heroically posed figures in Lazo’s realistically modeled illustrations are light-skinned.

Rescues and kittens by the carload, with a bit of inner growth on the side. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-25-081106-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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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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