Appealing and pleasingly thoughtful.

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WOUNDABOUT

A cliff-top river town, subterranean tunnels, and gearwork essentials figure in an intriguing steampunk fantasy.

Connor and Cordelia King, ages 11 and 9, have been recently orphaned. Their parents, two men who raised bomb-sniffing capybaras on their ranch, were killed when a capybara training device exploded. Now the children and the only remaining capybara, Kip, have traveled to a small town to live with an aunt. The children quickly realize that Woundabout has a secret. It is curiously inert: there’s no Internet, matches won’t light, the river doesn’t flow, the park is grimly barren, construction sites are vacant, and the mayor regards the arrival of children with deep suspicion and concern. Connor, with his love of things structural and architectural, notices the odd way the town fits together. Cordelia, who loves photography, observes much of the world through the lens of her camera. The town’s name hints at its origin story, meshing gearwork and the four classical elements (earth, air, water, and fire), as well as at a more solemn theme: everyone in Woundabout has been injured in some way; each is looking for healing. Loss, death, and sadness are each acknowledged as a powerful impetus to change. Moments of humor include Aunt Marigold’s inability to remember Kip’s species name (“snappy llama,” “chatty ferret”), while abundant black-and-white illustrations add a friendly note.

Appealing and pleasingly thoughtful. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-37078-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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SPACE CASE

From the Moon Base Alpha series , Vol. 1

When Dr. Holtz’s body is discovered just outside the lunar colony, everyone assumes he made a mistake putting on his spacesuit—but 12-year-old Dashiell “Dash” Gibson has reason to believe this was no accident.

Earth’s first space base has been a living hell for Dash. There’s not much to do on the moon besides schoolwork and virtual-reality gaming, and there’s only a handful of kids his age up there with him. The chance to solve a murder is exactly the type of excitement Dash needs. As clues are found and secrets are uncovered, Dash comes to understand that some of the base’s residents aren’t what they seem to be. With a small cast of characters supplying an excellent variety of suspects, Gibbs creates the best kind of “murder on a train” mystery. The genius, however, is putting the train in space. Closed quarters and techno–mumbo-jumbo add delightful color to the proceedings. Thankfully, the author doesn’t let the high-concept setting overshadow the novel’s mystery. The whodunit is smartly paced and intricately plotted. Best of all, the reveal is actually worth all the buildup. Thrillers too often fly off the rails in their final moments, but the author’s steady hand keeps everything here on track.

Fully absorbing. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9486-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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