THE SECRET SHORTCUT

Teague (who illustrated Audrey Wood's The Flying Dragon Room, p. 75) takes the sidelong view of life in this story about Wendell and Floyd, who are chronically late for school. One day it's space creatures that nearly abduct them, on another it's pirates in the neighborhood, and on another it's a plague of frogs that slows their progress schoolward. Their teacher is not amused. ``Absurd! I'm warning you—be here on time tomorrow—or else! And no more crazy excuses!'' Next day, up at the crack of dawn, determined not to let Ms. Gernsblatt down, Wendell recommends a secret shortcut. That shortcut seems to occupy a parallel dimension, one of rain forests and jungle animals, trailing vines and giant mud puddles. Finally, in the distance, they hear the school bell, and, running toward the noise, make it to their seats in the nick of time. This is an invigorating massage to the imagination, luxuriantly set in Teague's tactile acrylic illustrations, dreamlike items painted from worm's- and bird's-eye angles. Readers who have found themselves tardy and lacking suitable excuses will prize the brio of Wendell and Floyd. (Picture book. 5+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-590-67714-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE SKELETON ROAD

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 6

The monster-fighting gang from Wakefield departs on a post-apocalyptic road trip.

In this sixth installment of the heavily illustrated, Netflix-adapted series, quirky Jack Sullivan and his friends June, Quint, and Dirk finally leave their creature-ridden town in search of the ultimate baddie, Thrull, who previously deceived them. The quartet takes their tricked-out ride (an armored RV named Bad Mama) onto the open road (with Jack’s Zombie Squad in tow) to find the Outpost, where they believe a certain monster will be able to give them the location of the evil Tower where they believe Thrull now resides. Of course, the journey is littered with all kinds of nightmarish beasts and pitfalls (including an epic water park battle and slime-dripping baby monster), but the kids persist, armed with their endless gadgets and quick thinking. As the group races toward Thrull, the action culminates with an achingly tantalizing cliffhanger; expect audible groans and vociferous demands for the next installment. Fans of this series will revel in this fast-paced escapade with its recognizable black-and-white illustrations and trademark humor. Readers new to the series or those who are only familiar with the animated show may be a bit put off by this later volume that relies heavily on its own language of monsters and weapons. Jack, June, and Dirk are light-skinned; Quint is dark-skinned.

Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger. (Graphic fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984835-34-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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