Enigmatic enemies, sabotage, space travel, and short, bone-wracking bits of time travel make for a banging adventure.

LAST DAY ON MARS

From the Chronicle of the Dark Star series , Vol. 1

All remaining humans are leaving Mars for a distant planet, but departure day goes sideways.

The “burning husk” of Earth fell into the sun five years ago, and Mars is about to become uninhabitable. The Scorpius leaves today with the last 100 million passengers. Thirteen-year-old Liam’s sad to go: he was born on Mars and identifies as a Martian, unconcerned that his Earth heritage is “Thai, Irish, Nigerian, Texan, and like ten more.” His parents and his friend Phoebe’s parents are rushing the final research for terraforming their destination planet when a radioactive explosion, complete with mushroom cloud, blows the lab to bits. The Scorpius departs with Liam’s sister and the 100 million aboard, leaving Liam, Phoebe, and a highly skilled robot functionally alone (their parents are alive but unconscious)—can they catch the Scorpius? Emerson’s story is fast, exciting, and terrifying, involving spacecraft of many sizes, travel through space, more explosions, an alien gadget that shows Liam the near future (and that extraterrestrials exist! Humans hadn’t known), and some shadowy characters. Who’s the blue ET chronologist murdered in Scene 1? Who’s trying to exterminate humankind, and why? How many unrelated ET groups are out there? A stunning reveal at the end will leave readers gasping for the next installment.

Enigmatic enemies, sabotage, space travel, and short, bone-wracking bits of time travel make for a banging adventure. (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-230671-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

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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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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