Another stunner proves a worthy sequel to The Blackthorn Key (2015).

MARK OF THE PLAGUE

From the Blackthorn Key series , Vol. 2

It is 1665, and the plague has arrived in London, bringing with it prophets of doom and unscrupulous swindlers hoping to prey upon the fears of the desperate citizens.

Christopher, former apprentice to the late apothecary Benedict Blackthorn, finds himself at the center of a conspiracy that will end in either a cure for the Black Death or the destruction of society. Melchior, a charismatic prophet, draws followers by predicting where the plague will strike next. The arrival of an unknown apothecary who claims to have the cure increases the frenzy. It is up to Christopher and Tom, the baker’s son, to solve the mystery swirling around both men. Desperate poverty, magical thinking, and a complete disregard for life are everyday realities for those living during the Great Plague of London. And Sands does not shy away from exploring the mesmerizing, gritty, and often terrifying details. However, Christopher and Tom’s friendship, their earnest desire to help others, and their bravery more than make up for the dark reality. The addition of the plucky and fearless Sally provides the perfect balance for the loyal friends. An author’s note offers historical details as well as the shocking revelation that the plague remains a serious threat today.

Another stunner proves a worthy sequel to The Blackthorn Key (2015). (Historical mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4674-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

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 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE ZOMBIE PARADE

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 2

Thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan and his crew of monster-fighting besties are fresh off their victorious battle against the evil Blarg, but there’s no rest for the weary in the middle of a Monster Apocalypse.

First, Joe’s Pizza has become the local monster hangout. And second, the zombies seem to be disappearing. Thankfully, the white boy, his not-so-secret Latina love, June Del Toro, his African-American, science-nerd best friend, Quint, and pre-apocalypse bully–turned-ally Dirk, a large white boy who loves to garden, befriend a man-monster who might have the answers to everything. Equal parts humor, adventure, and warmth, the book offers fans of the series and new readers alike an entirely agreeable outing. Jack’s witty narration and Holgate’s pitch-perfect illustrations make for a terrific read that’s particularly well suited for middle-grade boys who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. There are plenty of foul-smelling, brain-sucking monsters and gizmos and gadgets to delight, but at its core, this is a story about friendship. Orphaned at birth and raised by a foster family he describes as jerks, Jack has always longed for a family of his own. Now that he has one, the only thing scarier than the monsters is the thought of losing them.

An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart. (Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-01662-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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