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THIS IS WAR

From the Cats vs. Robots series , Vol. 1

The Great Feline Empire has been at war with the Robot Empire for centuries; now a technological breakthrough in the Wengrod family lab puts Earth at the center of the conflict.

Pounce de Leon has learned from Earth cat operative OB_1_Catno_B (nicknamed “Obi”) that a computer chip has been developed on Earth that could extend cat lives beyond nine. Sir Beeps-a-Lot has heard reports of something similar from a mole in Earth company GloboTech; it can also offer infinite power to robots. Both empires want that chip. Meanwhile, fraternal twins Min Wengrod and her cat-loving brother, Max, are preparing for a robot battle and a video game–design contest, respectively. While their scientist parents are in China, their GloboTech-created household AI attempts to use the family’s helper robots to steal the chip while Obi enlists Stu and Scout, Max’s rescue kittens, to do the same. It’s a creative premise for a series opener, but it comes to naught thanks to multiple plot holes and flat, stock characters. (One exception to the latter is Latinx cousin and babysitter Javi, whose nonbinary gender identification is used as a message-y plot device. The Wengrods are otherwise ethnically undefined.) The alternation of perspective between robots and cats results in a great deal of repetition, and the nonsensical central conflict (cats like naps and don’t follow rules; robots love rules) is a flimsy nail on which to hang a too-lengthy novel, let alone a series.

Skip. (Science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266570-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Another epic outing in a graphic hybrid series that continues not just to push the envelope, but tear it to shreds.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE SENSATIONAL SAGA OF SIR STINKS-A-LOT

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 12

Pranksters George and Harold face the deadliest challenge of their checkered careers: a supersmart, superstrong gym teacher.

With the avowed aim of enticing an audience of “grouchy old people” to the Waistband Warrior’s latest exploit, Pilkey promises “references to health care, gardening, Bob Evans restaurants, hard candies, FOX News, and gentle-yet-effective laxatives.” He delivers, too. But lest fans of the Hanes-clad hero fret, he also stirs in plenty of fart jokes, brain-melting puns, and Flip-O-Rama throwdowns. After a meteorite transforms Mr. Meaner into a mad genius (evil, of course, because “as everyone knows, most gym teachers are inherently evil”) and he concocts a brown gas that turns children into blindly obedient homework machines, George and Harold travel into the future to enlist aid from their presumably immune adult selves. Temporarily leaving mates and children (of diverse sexes, both) behind, Old George and Old Harold come to the rescue. But Meaner has a robot suit (of course he has a robot suit), and he not only beats down the oldsters, but is only fazed for a moment when Capt. Underpants himself comes to deliver a kick to the crotch. Fortunately, gym teachers, “like toddlers,” will put anything in their mouths—so an ingestion of soda pop and Mentos at last spells doom, or more accurately: “CHeffGoal-D’BLOOOM!”

Another epic outing in a graphic hybrid series that continues not just to push the envelope, but tear it to shreds. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-50492-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Epic—in plot, not length—and as wise and wonderful as Gerald Morris’ Arthurian exploits.

KNIGHTS VS. DINOSAURS

Who needs dragons when there are Terrible Lizards to be fought?

Having recklessly boasted to King Arthur and the court that he’d slain 40 dragons, Sir Erec can hardly refuse when Merlin offers him more challenging foes…and so it is that in no time (so to speak), Erec, with bookish Sir Hector, the silent and enigmatic Black Knight, and blustering Sir Bors with his thin but doughty squire, Mel, in tow, are hewing away at fearsome creatures sporting natural armor and weapons every bit as effective as knightly ones. Happily, while all the glorious mashing and bashing leads to awesome feats aplenty—who would suspect that a ravening T. Rex could be decked by a well-placed punch to the jaw?—when the dust settles neither bloodshed nor permanent injury has been dealt to either side. Better yet, not even the stunning revelation that two of the Three Stooges–style bumblers aren’t what they seem (“Anyone else here a girl?”) keeps the questers from developing into a well-knit team capable of repeatedly saving one another’s bacon. Phelan endows the all-white human cast with finely drawn, eloquently expressive faces but otherwise works in a loose, movement-filled style, pitting his clanking crew against an almost nonstop onslaught of toothy monsters in a monochrome mix of single scenes and occasional wordless sequential panels.

Epic—in plot, not length—and as wise and wonderful as Gerald Morris’ Arthurian exploits. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-268623-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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