Though it lacks depth, the book will connect with its audience. (Fantasy. 8-12)



From the Balance Keepers series , Vol. 3

Albert, Leroy, Birdie, and newcomer Holt make up Team Hydra, a young group of Balance Keepers that have been called upon to save the planet from destruction.

A series of powerful earthquakes signals that there is an Imbalance in the Realm of Belltroll, and Albert, Leroy, and Birdie are summoned to the Core for a conclave of Balance Keepers. When Team Hydra, now with the addition of Holt, sets off to Troll Mountain to investigate the Core's instability, they discover that the giant Trolls of Troll Mountain are in deep hibernation. It is the job of the sleeping Trolls to awaken and maintain the planet’s stability when the bells ring, and the static bells have been tampered with by a traitor within the Realm. The traitor leaves a note for Albert, wearer of a magical Master Tile, triggering fears that the traitor will steal the Tile from Albert to utilize its power to finish the destruction of the planet. Things do get worse before Albert is ultimately led to learn of past betrayals, in turn leading to a surprise revelation as to the identity of the mysterious traitor of Belltroll. Although this fantasy trilogy lacks originality, younger readers may become fans of Team Hydra, as out of the gate Cummings leads them right into a nicely set up, tense world in a tale that can stand alone without reading the previous two installments. The kids who make up Team Hydra appear to be white.

Though it lacks depth, the book will connect with its audience. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-227524-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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