A spirited and magical underdog story.

SPELL SWEEPER

Wizard school is enchanting—unless you’re the janitor.

Such is the life of seventh grader Cara Moone, a remedial wizard with a bad attitude and a utility belt. Not only is she a MOP (Magical Occurrence Purger) at Dragonsong Academy, but her pink unicorn underwear and propensity for rule-breaking further cast her as a misfit. While cleaning up spell dust at several Magical Occurrence sites, Cara encounters a mouth-thingy that oozes black slime. While far from glamorous, her cleanup duties are a critical part of keeping Blisses, or ordinary mortals, happily (even blissfully) ignorant of the magical world that exists right under their noses. Joined by a three-tailed fox, straight-laced classmate Gusto, and an illegal magical pet, Cara must unravel the mystery of an unreliable teacher and her enigmatic—as well as popular and effortlessly cool—classmate Harlee Wu and stop the slime from destroying the Field of Magical Matter. Surprising revelations and plenty of humor keep the story fresh, and the good-vs.-evil plotline is nicely nuanced. A family tragedy and a sisterly rift bring some serious notes to the narrative, while scenes involving a dark magic cult lend sinister vibes. Cara is of Irish descent and reads as White; most other characters read as White with several ancillary characters, such as Harlee, whose surnames add presumed diversity.

A spirited and magical underdog story. (author's note) (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284532-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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