A few visual quibbles aside, an enjoyable romp that will leave readers salivating for the sequel.

MAC UNDERCOVER

From the Mac B., Kid Spy series , Vol. 1

When the queen of England calls, you’d better answer the phone.

Barnett takes his readers on a fun-filled ride across two continents in a mostly not-true adventure starring his childhood self. In this version, young child-of-the-1980s Mac is living in Castro Valley, California, when he receives a telephone call from the queen of England. The queen is missing some valuable treasure and needs Mac to retrieve it for her. While on the case, Mac travels across Europe in an attempt to find the thief and return the treasure to England. Barnett’s tone throughout the story is humorous, lighthearted, and a little glib, and the over-the-top story is sure to appeal to many readers. The references to the 1980s will appeal to adults who are reading aloud but will likely require explanation for the humor to truly hit home with children. (Yes, American blue jeans were a big deal in Russia in the 1980s!) Lowery’s illustrations, rendered in black, blue, and yellow, have an appropriately childlike look; due to both this stylistic choice and the book’s overall cheeky tone, it’s hard to tell whether the occasional inconsistency with the text and from illustration to illustration is intentional. There is no evident ethnic diversity in the background characters, a missed opportunity for some range in an otherwise white-only story.

A few visual quibbles aside, an enjoyable romp that will leave readers salivating for the sequel. (Historical thriller. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-14359-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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