From the Strangeworlds Travel Agency series , Vol. 3

A moving conclusion to a delightful trilogy.

Strangeworlds faces its biggest challenge yet.

Flick’s life since she first entered the Strangeworlds Travel Agency has been a series of adventures in different worlds where her unusual magic is needed to shore up the multiverse. Now she and best friend Jonathan have discovered that all of the mysteries they’ve encountered in previous adventures were due to the magic-devouring Seren, who will destroy the multiverse if they aren’t stopped. Flick, now 13, must face what it means to have power as she negotiates loss and first love (with Jonathan’s cousin Avery, a girl literally from another world). As befits the greater stakes, this is an altogether less whimsical tale, with only one new world explored and most of the action focused on preparing to face the Seren; the emotional elements are likewise more intense as the nature of family and the purpose of power are explored. In a significant moment, Jonathan notes that they should honor the name used by the inhabitants of a world rather than using the Strangeworlds Society’s name. The mix of the mundane into the extraordinary is less pronounced than in previous entries, but wonderful touches of realism pop through, as when Flick must figure out how to balance school and family against saving the world—and grapple with how her day-to-day life is being changed, not always positively, by her Strangeworlds life. Positive representations of diversity in gender and sexuality are casually and seamlessly woven into the characterization.

A moving conclusion to a delightful trilogy. (Fantasy. 9-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8357-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022


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


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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