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From the Secrets of Bearhaven series , Vol. 1

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

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. 13, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

Dizzyingly silly.

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 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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