GYPSY RIZKA

This tome from Alexander (The Iron Ring, 1997, etc.) showcases all the elements of a farce as mayors and councilmen, gypsies and ragamuffins supplant kings and princes, warriors and magic cats. Episodic chapters resemble short skits as the orphaned gypsy girl Rizka, with intentional but lighthearted mockery, merrily exposes the townspeople of Greater Dunitsa for all their quirks and quixotic notions. She is soothsayer, matchmaker, and healer rolled into one. With a glint in her eye and a trick up her sleeve, the quick-witted Rizka can make grown men cluck like chickens, believe in town hall ghosts, or stuff herring down their pants in an effort to grow smarter, all “in the name of civic duty.” For a stretch, the plot is more of the same, pitting Rizka against the evil Chief Councilor Sharpnack, who seeks only to rid the town of the “pestilential Gypsy vixen” and her impudent cat Petzel, “the only blot(s) on the town’s reputation.” In a series of “carefully managed coincidences,” snowballing plot elements land many of the bumbling government officials in their own jail. All comes right again, for as Rizka has wound her way into the lives of the townspeople, she has also found her way into their hearts. Alexander has a flair for finding the comedic in his pageant of characters, while his chain of absurdities reveals a truth or two about the human condition along the way. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-525-46121-3

Page Count: 195

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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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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