Labored and wrapped in a thin film of artificial drama as it is, this set of mind-expanding if scattershot exposures to some...

GEORGE AND THE BIG BANG

From the George series , Vol. 3

Like their first two collaborations, the Hawkings’ third and final George book offers a hybrid mixture of made-up adventures in space/time interleaved with miniessays on, as one character unoriginally puts it, “life, the Universe, and everything.”

Most of the action centers on Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider, where the Order of Science to Benefit Humanity has gathered. The anti-environmentalist group Theory of Everything Resists Addition of Gravity (aka TOERAG, a tortured joke that American readers will miss) have planted a “quantum mechanical bomb” there, with a trigger that, quantum-theory style, remains indeterminate until it’s observed. Meanwhile, though conveniently provided with a defusing code, young George and Annie have been imprisoned in an Inverse Schrödinger Trap (with a cat, of course) that will assume a random and therefore almost certainly deadly location somewhere in the universe should they try to leave. The story is interspersed with suitably seriocomic illustrations and pauses every few pages for digestible disquisitions (some by prominent scientists other than Hawking) on the Big Bang, wormholes, Feynman diagrams, major components of the LHC and other topics in Newtonian, quantum and theoretical physics. It is less a single plot than a weakly connected chain of incidents, fetching up where it should in the end.

Labored and wrapped in a thin film of artificial drama as it is, this set of mind-expanding if scattershot exposures to some of science’s biggest theories and ideas will once again find a large audience thanks more to its celebrity co-author than its content. (Science fiction/informational hybrid. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4005-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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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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