Just the right mix of mystery and kooky fun.



Ben Braver: superhero or superzero?

With best friend Finn moved away, Ben Braver has spent the summer binge-watching Adam West–era Batman, playing video games alone, and reading comics…and wishing to be a hero. When he responds to a cry for help, the resultant conflict with school bully (and evidently supervillain) Dexter Dunn leaves Ben frozen—literally. Ben is whisked away from the hospital by mysterious, old Donald Kepler, who invites Ben to Kepler Academy, “a secret school for kids with special abilities,” hinting Ben may have “abilities” of his own. Once Ben’s sure it’s not an elaborate prank, he agrees, wondering what his superpower…er, “ability" will be when it manifests. However, Kepler Academy is no school for training heroes à la the Xavier Institute of X-Men fame; aside from ordinary classes, Kepler trains its students not to use their powers. While Ben tries to figure out why Kepler recruited him, he and his fireball-belching roommate, Noah, and their small-animal–controlling friend, Penny, uncover a mystery. Can they figure out what’s causing students to act like zombies (and eat worms!)? With this title, Emerson launches a new series narrated by sarcastic sixth-grader Ben. The inline comics proffer punchlines and extra laughs (some are metacomments on the action of the tale); in the illustrations, black-haired Ben and blonde Penny are depicted with light skin and Noah with dark. Fans of superhero fiction will laugh out loud and identify with the aggressively regular Ben.

Just the right mix of mystery and kooky fun. (Graphic/adventure hybrid. 7-12)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-710-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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