A riotous thigh-slapper with plenty of Toy Story in its DNA.

SPY TOYS

In a near-future “doll-eat-doll” world, three smart but defective toys join forces to escape the rubbish bin and fight crime.

Hardly have Dan, a Snugallific Cuddlestar teddy so uncontrollably strong that the hugs he is programmed to give tend to have gruesome results, and truculent Arabella, a Loadasmiles Sunshine rag doll, escaped from the Snaztacular Ultrafun factory and met up with Flax, a nattily attired police bunny missing a significant portion of his anatomy, than all three are collared by the mysterious Department of Secret Affairs to form a special “Spy Toys” unit. Their first assignment, as bodyguards for a senator’s 8-year-old son, Sam, nearly ends in catastrophe when the lad is kidnapped by Rusty Flumptrunk, an elephantine ex–cereal company mascot who’s turned crime lord, and strapped to a giant mayonnaise bomb. The tale takes an ugly turn at the climax, when the toys overcome Flumptrunk by taking advantage of his peanut allergy to leave him in a state of anaphylactic shock. Otherwise, Powers dishes up a comical romp with central characters who display brains as well as brawn and, while learning how to live with disabilities, also figure out how to leverage them to save both the lad and the local community from awful fates. Wesson’s frequent, blocky cartoon illustrations and vignettes add appropriately wacky visual notes. Human and humanoid figures are all white.

A riotous thigh-slapper with plenty of Toy Story in its DNA. (Crime comedy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-665-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

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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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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