A wholesome, modern twist on the classic legend that could provide a gateway for newer readers and fun for the gaming set.

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THE ONCE AND FUTURE GEEK

From the The Camelot Code series , Vol. 1

Two contemporary gamers find themselves living a real-life fantasy adventure with the future King Arthur and Guinevere even as they navigate rough-water friendships.

Twelve-year-old Sophie and her best friend, Stu, play “Camelot’s Honor,” an online video game based on Arthurian legend. Unknown to them, their third party member is the real wizard Merlin, connected with time-traveling Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Arthur and Princess Guinevere pal around. One day, instead of pulling a certain sword out of a stone, he falls through a magic well, landing in 21st-century Massachusetts. After he learns his legendary fate with a search on “the Google,” he decides to stay and play football, a decision that drastically alters history. The four teens travel through time and face the vengeful sorceress Morgana—but, as Merlin says, “unfortunately in real life there are no do-overs.” Mancusi builds suspense well in this series opener. The casual, multiple-perspective narration keeps the characters familiar and approachable for young readers, even within the medieval setting. The ultimate message is muddled, however; dreams of self-determination clash with apparently inevitable destinies. There is some troubling gender treatment: Even though Guinevere can fight, she still needs rescuing and ends up pigeonholed as romantic drama, and the text fails to challenge Arthur's 21st-century pal's obnoxious, anti-feminist declaration that he hopes to "score a dance with a real medieval chick." The book features no characters of color in either timeline, offering a default-white cast. Mancusi sets the stage for future adventures…in the past.

A wholesome, modern twist on the classic legend that could provide a gateway for newer readers and fun for the gaming set. (Fantasy. 8-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-01084-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

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

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

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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