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

SECRETS OF BEARHAVEN

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.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

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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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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