While the story is not remotely realistic, it finds strength in silliness and periodic action sequences.


From the Secrets of Bearhaven series , Vol. 1

When Spencer’s parents go missing, he’s tossed into a conspiracy of bear-abuse networks and talking bears.

Spencer’s mom and dad run a foundation that sends them on missions to rescue abused bears. Suddenly, his uncle Mark pulls him out of school (and into a car chase) because they’ve gone missing. Mark sends Spencer alone into the forest, where a good friend will be waiting to help him—but it’s a bear with a translator that allows him to communicate with Mark. The translators were developed by Professor Weaver, whom Mark’s parents met while in college, and a bear (hilariously) also named Professor Weaver. At secret, high-tech Bearhaven, all bears wear translators and live normal, humanlike lives with school, video games, a restaurant, and even water aerobics. Spencer stays with (bear) Professor Weaver’s family, befriends Kate the cub, and learns about the bear-abuse networks. These revolve around bear baying, brutally described, in which dogs attack chained and often declawed and defanged bears. He also learns about his parents’ nemeses: their college’s former live-mascot handler and her brother. The football helmet–wearing muscle of their team, the brother is also possibly developmentally delayed, a condition that’s distressingly played for laughs. When preparation fails to win Spencer a spot on a rescue mission, he turns to stealth. The ending sets up the next in the series.

While the story is not remotely realistic, it finds strength in silliness and periodic action sequences. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-81303-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders.


When a Bengali boy finds and saves a tiger cub from a man who wants to sell her on the black market, he realizes that the schoolwork he resents could lead to a career protecting his beloved Sunderbans island home.

When the not-yet-weaned cub escapes from a nearby reserve, Neel and many of his neighbors join the search. But some are in the pay of greedy Gupta, a shady entrepreneur who’s recently settled in their community. Even Neel’s father is tempted by Gupta’s money, although he knows that Gupta doesn’t plan to take the cub back to the refuge. Neel and his sister use the boy’s extensive knowledge of the island’s swampy interior to find the cub’s hiding place and lure it out so it can be returned to its mother. The Kolkota-born author visited the remote Sunderbans in the course of her research. She lovingly depicts this beautiful tropical forest in the context of Neel’s efforts to find the cub and his reluctance to leave his familiar world. While the conflicts resolve a bit too easily, the sense of place is strong and the tiger cub’s rescue very satisfying. Pastel illustrations will help readers envision the story.

A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders. (author's note, organizations, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-660-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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