An intriguing novel that highlights social class disparities and the importance of friendship.

Two 11-year-old children fight to preserve their friendship against the wishes of an unethical company.

Maximilian J. Sterling was born into wealth with billionaire parents who wanted to protect him from greedy people and show him he had value outside of his riches. Josie experienced loss the moment she entered the world: Her mother died in childbirth, leaving her to be raised in poverty by her grieving father, whose only wish is that she have more opportunities than he did. Each parent makes a deal with a petite woman dressed all in black from the Whatnot Corporation—the company responsible for creating well-behaved android children that allow rich kids to thrive in controlled environments. Max attends a school where he is surrounded by whatnots—and Josie, who is pretending to be a whatnot so that she may receive a better education than her father could afford. Life goes according to plan until Josie and Max find out the truth behind the Whatnot Corporation, leading them to unravel a mystery that has them confronting the true meaning of friendship and reconciling the inequalities the company has prospered from and contributed to. The omniscient narrator and strong pacing will keep readers engaged and racing to the end. Meanwhile, the well-rounded characters will elicit empathy and inspire discussion of systemic socio-economic inequalities. Max and Josie are White; there is some racial diversity among side characters.

An intriguing novel that highlights social class disparities and the importance of friendship. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-283849-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012


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

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