A sometimes-thrilling but problematic time-travel adventure.



In this middle-grade novel, a group of children go back in time and learn scary truths about living in the 19th century.

Twelve-year-old DeeAnn Quesenberry, her twin brother, Leon, and their 7-year-old sibling, Caleb,are all set to visit Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia with their beloved Uncle Azer. But just before their trip, he goes missing. A mysterious letter from their uncle tells them that if he suddenly disappears, they’ll likely never see him again and they shouldn’t file a missing person’s report. After some time, their parents decide that Uncle Azer will not be returning, so the children each choose something from his home to remember him by. As they admire the model steam train that Caleb chooses, they reflect on a genealogical chart that their mother rescued from the house. They imagine living in the past, which causes a time-traveling steam train to appear, and it takes them to 1854 Pennsylvania. Once there, they insinuate themselves into the home of a kindly couple who operate a station on the Underground Railroad. The children help the pair secretly transport enslaved people to the next station, risking their own lives in ways they never could have imagined. They want to return home, but they will have to uncover their Uncle Azer’s secret before they can. Over the course of this engaging adventure novel, Quigley presents a wealth of historical detail, and the young characters’ behavior will be relatable to the book’s intended audience. The author makes references to classic children’s time-travel books, such as the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time (1962), establishing that she understands the kind of material that will appeal to her audience. However, the story’s sections about the Underground Railroad, while intriguing, can come across as a White-savior narrative, as the Black characters don’t play a very active role in the story.

A sometimes-thrilling but problematic time-travel adventure.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-973681-58-8

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2020

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

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 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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