SECRET SOLDIERS

A captivating tale of down-to-earth heroism and a personal exposé of life in the trenches from the perspective of likable,...

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Thirteen-year-old Irish-born Thomas Sullivan runs away from home to join the English army during World War I. He wants to escape a life of grinding poverty in the coal mines of Dover and is intent on finding his dearly loved older brother, who signed up to fight but has been reported missing in action. Thomas fails to enlist due to his youth but is illegally recruited through the machinations of George, a Cockney street urchin. On the troop train bound for Ypres and the Western Front, they join abused runaway Charlie and stuck-up Eton scholar Frederick. The boys discover that their actual role is not to fight the Germans but to be sappers, whose job is to dig tunnels under the trenches, where they plant explosives to blow up the German lines and ultimately turn the course of the war. The narrative seamlessly blends historical fact with the intense personal experiences of the four boys—all white—as they learn to cope with the horrors of trench warfare. Each brings a special skill to the mix; Thomas’ mining experience, Charlie’s artistic skills, Frederick’s writing ability, and George’s all-round confidence and determination. The design includes a few black pages with white text, describing Thomas’ brother James’ traumatic experiences.

A captivating tale of down-to-earth heroism and a personal exposé of life in the trenches from the perspective of likable, engaging characters. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-30903-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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