The blandly commercial setting muffles the author’s usually acute observations, but when Iggy the iguana enters the picture,...

BLUE AUTUMN CRUISE

From the Sisters in All Seasons series , Vol. 3

A multigenerational Caribbean cruise provides the setting for the latest entry in this series about two stepsisters who bond through the endangered wildlife they encounter.

Diana, 15, struggling with a mood disorder, feels press-ganged into joining the family cruise in honor of her stepdad’s mother, especially when she learns she and new stepsister Stephanie, 14, must share their stateroom with Stephanie’s bossy cousin Lauren. Also 14, Lauren records whatever’s in her vicinity on her video camera. Diana’s refusal to hang out in the teen nightclub with them and the boys they meet threatens to destroy the festive mood, while timid Stephanie wants everyone to feel included but is unsure how to fix things. Luckily, finding an endangered baby blue iguana gives Diana a focus. Embodying the gentle religious subtext (an inclusive one, stressing behavior over belief), Stephanie’s aware she’s been blessed by an easygoing temperament, likability and good looks, and she feels these gifts confer responsibilities. One major element throws the narrative off balance: the sisters’ vocabulary, naïveté and social interactions feel like those of children three or more years younger. Only Lauren, an adolescent questioning parental authority, seems developmentally on track.

The blandly commercial setting muffles the author’s usually acute observations, but when Iggy the iguana enters the picture, pacing and energy pick up. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-310-72617-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zonderkidz

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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