Piracy, pyrotechnics, prison—prodigious

THE CHANGER'S KEY

From the A Riddle in Ruby series , Vol. 2

It’s what inside that counts—particularly when it’s a ciphered secret hidden in your blood.

In this sequel to A Riddle in Ruby (2015), Ruby Teach has been taken prisoner by her nemesis, Wisdom Rool. Prison, as it turns out, is a fortressed training camp for reeves, the crown’s warriors and spies and the thorns in Ruby’s side. When a creepy doctor there pledges to interpret the secret in Ruby’s blood, Stockholm syndrome surfaces, and she decides siding with Rool has a certain appeal. As her father and friends battle wilderness and bounty hunters to rescue her, Ruby struggles to comprehend what secrets stream through her veins, what the moral repercussions for serving Rool may be, and what the actual threat to Colonial America is. Where Book 1 stumbled in finding its meter, here there is no faltering, just momentum. Wilderness, fortresses, predatory cats, and a yeti for good measure transmute a game of find-the-Ruby into a combustive delight. Fans of Snicket-ian gloom will revel in the thrill that the oft-grim landscapes proffer. Dastardly, heroic, and powerful roles are played by both sexes, but this tale is well-populated by members of the not-so-weaker sex who are ready to throw a punch. In this alternative Colonial America the demographic tends toward white. However, good vs. evil vs. undecided serves the conflict more than race or socio-economic cataloging.

Piracy, pyrotechnics, prison—prodigious .(Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-236837-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE REVOLTING REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE ROBO-BOXERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 10

Zipping back and forth in time atop outsized robo–bell bottoms, mad inventor Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) legs his way to center stage in this slightly less-labored continuation of episode 9.

The action commences after a rambling recap and a warning not to laugh or smile on pain of being forced to read Sarah Plain and Tall. Pilkey first sends his peevish protagonist back a short while to save the Earth (destroyed in the previous episode), then on to various prehistoric eras in pursuit of George, Harold and the Captain. It’s all pretty much an excuse for many butt jokes, dashes of off-color humor (“Tippy pressed the button on his Freezy-Beam 4000, causing it to rise from the depths of his Robo-Pants”), a lengthy wordless comic and two tussles in “Flip-o-rama.” Still, the chase kicks off an ice age, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Big Bang (here the Big “Ka-Bloosh!”). It ends with a harrowing glimpse of what George and Harold would become if they decided to go straight. The author also chucks in a poopy-doo-doo song with musical notation (credited to Albert P. Einstein) and plenty of ink-and-wash cartoon illustrations to crank up the ongoing frenzy.

Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-17536-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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