A well-crafted, supernatural pirate tale with a capable, young hero.



A young girl, the descendant of a famous pirate, joins a magic-filled adventure at sea in this launch of a prospective middle-grade series.

Avalina Jones has only hazy memories of her parents, who left her at a Louisiana orphanage six years ago. It turns out they were keeping their daughter, now 10, a secret for her own safety. A scoundrel named Del Maligno long ago vowed revenge against Davy Jones and has since targeted all his heirs. Avalina is the lone survivor. As per her late mother’s wishes, Avalina boards the Aquatiery, one of four schoolships for pirate heirs. The girl and her new friends study, and, like full-fledged pirates, they scrutinize maps and hunt for treasure. Avalina already has enough to worry about; legend says the evil Del Maligno can control the weather. There’s also a chance she’s got Davy Jones’ “Curse of Bad Luck.” Booting Avalina off the ship is evidently someone’s priority, and she soon becomes the No.1 suspect for an onboard murder. Adams’ pirate-centric story teems with entertaining bits of magic. If the students want to eat, they must first catch surprisingly mobile “enchanted food” (even salads). The author nevertheless zeroes in on winsome Avalina and her equally appealing fellow heirs. The narrative lingers on colorful descriptions of the ship’s decks (“rickety, crooked signs” in “sloppy white lettering”) as well as the surrounding ocean’s “pale blue water.” An unknown antagonist on the Aquatiery incites mystery (if Avalina isn’t the killer, then someone else surely is). While the ending satisfies, Adams leaves plenty to explore further in sequels, like Avalina’s ability to breathe underwater, which she keeps mum about.

A well-crafted, supernatural pirate tale with a capable, young hero.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73713-120-5

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Spyhop Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

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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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Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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