Continued reliance on formula makes this third outing too much like the first two.

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THE FEARSOME FIREBIRD

From the Curiosity House series , Vol. 3

Set in the 1930s, this third book of the Curiosity House series continues to follow four orphans who are performers and residents of Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders.

In the previous book, the orphans, Sam, Max, Thomas, and Pippa, only barely escaped capture by the mad scientist Nicholas Rattigan, who vanished after murdering Sam's parents. Under the protection of their new caretaker, Mr. Dumfrey, head of the museum, the children are rallying to move on from their grief when a mysterious string of robberies hits close to home. After someone poisons and kills all of Gen. Farnum's fleas from his world-famous flea circus, Farnum is arrested for murder. Knowing Farnum is incapable of such an act, and after the occurrence of a second murder while he's in jail, the orphans suspect that Rattigan may be lurking about yet again. These events lead the orphans to discover the tragic origins of their exceptional abilities, and they find themselves racing to uncover a deadly plot that could lead to the destruction of New York City. The plot is somewhat engaging in building suspense as the orphans attempt to unveil the hidden traitors, but the delivery of a dark reveal about the orphans is derailed by repetitive foreshadowing that establishes a predictable outcome. In the end, whimsy and a quick pace fail to compensate for the plot’s shortcomings.

Continued reliance on formula makes this third outing too much like the first two. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-227087-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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