Sailors seeking espionage and a cast of characters who can’t sit still should embark on this series’ maiden...



From the A Riddle in Ruby series , Vol. 1

Sometimes the biggest threat and thrill is trying to blend in.

However she’s disguised, 13-year-old Aruba “Ruby” Teach is true to herself: she’s the swindling daughter of a faux pirate. Groomed to pick locks and pockets, when Ruby pulls a knife on a dandy in a capsized, horseless barouche, she gets a slash of the sword and a warning to leave without loot. Back on the boat, Ruby is horrified to learn that the two new passengers who have chartered her father’s ship are none other than the dandy, Lord Athen, and his footman. An attack from the Royal Navy soon forces Ruby, Athen, and his footman to hide while the crew surrenders. Why would they attack the ship? Why hasn’t Lord Athen turned her in? Why is everyone suddenly so interested in capturing Ruby? In an alternate Colonial America where steampunk takes center stage, a war looms between governing powers and illegal alchemical practice. Though not starving for action, the narrative is initially made weighty by a barrage of nicknamed characters (Cram, Gwath, Skillet), and the establishing of period tone is so saturated with metaphors some sentences need to be triple sifted. Once readers have sailed through the introductory choppy waters, this tale of revolutionary intent, self-discovery, and double-crossing cross-dressing is worth the trip.

Sailors seeking espionage and a cast of characters who can’t sit still should embark on this series’ maiden voyage. (Steampunk. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-236834-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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


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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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. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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