Peculiar, perplexing, and persistent—training wheels for Samuel Beckett.

When is a skunk not a skunk? When it’s a…skunk.

A bespectacled man peers out his front door at a red-nosed skunk perched on his stoop, gazing back. The skunk does nothing overtly threatening, just looks at the man and then follows him down the street. The man sports tails and a cummerbund, his red bow tie visually connecting him to the skunk’s red nose; overall, McDonnell’s palette is muted, metropolitan blacks and grays occasionally accented by peach and red. The skunk is bipedal, his posture mimicking the narrator’s as he tails the man through the city on foot and by cab—yet, the narrator tells readers, “the skunk was a skunk.” To the opera, through cemetery, carnival—a brief sojourn on a Ferris wheel is particularly symbolic of existential futility—and sewers the man flees, finally finding himself in a completely different part of the city, where he buys a new house. Here the palette changes to primary colors; there is no skunk, but the man’s visiting friends take on the look of circus clowns. Something is missing; the man leaves his housewarming party to find “[his] skunk.” On doing so, the man begins to tail the skunk, to “make sure he does not follow me again.” Adults will turn themselves inside out trying to figure it out; kids will either find the whole idea hysterical or just plain befuddling.

Peculiar, perplexing, and persistent—training wheels for Samuel Beckett. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59643-966-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

Dizzyingly silly.

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 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014


From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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