Quibbles aside, a satisfying read that strikes a good balance between emotional highs and page-turning adventure.

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CONNECT THE STARS

A middle school boy and girl, each with a character trait that impedes relationships—Audrey always knows when someone is lying, and Aaron has an indelible memory but no emotional intelligence—develop an unlikely friendship in a wilderness camp.

After various difficulties in their separate schools, Audrey’s and Aaron’s parents enroll them in a desert wilderness camp for 13- and 14-year-olds, where they hike a 200-mile route known as the Journey to Confidence. The other members of the group include the very sad Kate, Louis, who is hypersensitive to stimulation, and Daphne, who is furious at everyone, especially her mother. In fits and starts, the two peculiar protagonists develop an improbable yet believable trust, which in turn gives them a kind of synergistic problem-solving agency. The premise—a pair of oddballs help each other approach normal—is beyond tried and true, yet the authors deliver it with enough permutations to keep it fresh. Specifically, the mix of other troubled kids adds complexity, and the harsh desert landscape conveys wonder and majesty. There are some credibility problems; Audrey’s gift is hard to buy, as is the group leader’s judgment, and although the authors wring a goodly amount of pathos out of Aaron’s character, his hyperfactual Asperger-like personality mix is very familiar.

Quibbles aside, a satisfying read that strikes a good balance between emotional highs and page-turning adventure. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-227465-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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