COUGAR CANYON

A restless 13-year-old searches for her destiny, and finds a cougar. Isabel (Izzie) Ramirez feels that the beginning of summer brings with it an indefinable sense of promise. To fulfill that promise, she decides to pursue an “entrepreneurial endeavor”—starting her own yard-work business. (“Money is power,” her university-bound cousin Arturo tells her.) Her first client is a wealthy woman who lives up in the hills above Oakland, abutting a regional park. Izzie forms an uneasy relationship with her son Charles and his friend Sam as they lounge around the pool while she works, and when she overhears what she thinks is a plan to kill a cougar rumored to have established its territory in the park, she determines to stop them. Bledsoe (Working Parts, 1997, etc.) creates a winning protagonist in Izzie, whose keen observations, occasionally awkward outspokenness, and independence will appeal to readers, and whose extended family is a real treat. The text gently explores socioeconomic divisions between Izzie’s family and her clients, and in one hilarious incident busts stereotypes when she gets her cousins to dress as gang members to menace Sam after he makes one too many racist remarks. The secondary characters are not as well developed as Izzie—in particular, Sam’s obvious compassion for animals jars with his thoroughly annoying demeanor towards Izzie—but for the most part they emerge as genuine human beings. If some of the story’s themes are rather incompletely explored—is money power?—it is nevertheless a perfectly satisfying read that provocatively probes the nature of destiny. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-8234-1599-6

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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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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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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