Time-traveling pirates, whimsical humor, a sentient ship, and cliffhanger predicaments deliver generous helpings of quirky,...

THE MONA LISA KEY

From the Time Castaways series , Vol. 1

In this series opener, three siblings are lured onto a shape-changing ship whose time-traveling pirate captain aims to steal Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece from the Louvre.

Their parents have forbidden Matt, adopted from Colombia, and twins Corey and Ruby, their biological children, to take public transportation—even elevators. The kids’ adventure begins when they disobey and board a subway car that proves to be the shape-changing frigate Vermillion on its way to Paris. Navigating via magical compass, Capt. Vincent leads the successful mission to pre-empt the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa. Mission accomplished, the children are told why they were abducted and—assured they can return the same moment they left—settle in to enjoy time travel and Vermillion’s (mostly) friendly crew of orphans, such as Jia, who keeps the ship running on peanut butter and bubble gum. But Matt begins to suspect undisclosed motives lie behind their abduction. While the siblings learn the startling reason, Matt’s connection to time travel by compass remains a mystery to be solved in future volumes, as do his unexplained seizures. Racially, chronologically, and culturally diverse characters and the convoluted plot, packed with surprising twists and turns, cleverly play on readers’ expectations. Matt’s, Corey’s, and Ruby’s races are unspecified, though on the cover the former appears with brown skin and the latter two with pale; Jia is described as Asian.

Time-traveling pirates, whimsical humor, a sentient ship, and cliffhanger predicaments deliver generous helpings of quirky, retro-tinged entertainment. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-256813-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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