From the Sliver of Stardust series , Vol. 2

Wren Matthews thought she had destroyed the evil Boggen, but he’s back—and now, on Nod, he’s experimenting with tainted stardust…on human subjects.

At the opening of this sequel to A Sliver of Stardust (2015), Wren is having trouble working her stardust. The first few pages quickly recap the fact that she is a Fiddler—one of the few people on Earth who can work magic—and, even more special, a Weather Changer. Soon the pedantic Simon, rival-turned-friend, enters the picture; he will exhibit his prime trait of nerdiness throughout the book, while the character Jack—friend-then-traitor-then-friend-again—continues to smirk and play lame pranks. Wren and friends embark on a cinematic journey that includes spaceships, steampunk-y objects and places, street urchins, catacombs, and scientific laboratories. Civil wars, plagues, Alchemists, and Magicians are thrown into the mix, along with the Outsiders, who want all magic destroyed. And who is orchestrating Wren’s frightening, lucid dreams? A page-turner for those who enjoy lots of action upon a crazy-quilt landscape; a frustration for those who enjoy details, character development, and a logical plot. Stock phrases abound, as in “Take heed,” and “Beware.” Wren feels stirred by a beautiful-eyed boy whose name, Vulcan, causes her to reference Star Trek. Eventually, Simon manages to teach everyone a surprising—make that unbelievable—lesson about tolerance and “animachines,” and Wren has another go at destroying Boggen. The cast is not notably diverse, with little indication that characters are anything other than white.

Arduous. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229158-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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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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