A grand, giddy, and, at times, literally soaring tale.

Farm animals and French children unite to save the fledgling United States from a scheming mastermind in this airy 18th-century adventure.

Well-informed readers will recognize the titular creatures as the passengers carried into the skies by Montgolfier’s inaugural hot air balloon flight at the Palace of Versailles in 1783. Few, however, will be aware that the three—brilliant aeronautical sheep engineer Bernadette, swashbuckling rooster Pierre, and gifted duck tactician Jean-Luc—went on to lead secret lives righting wrongs and battling evildoers. Notable among the latter is the villainous magician Cagliostro, who, having caught wind of the fact that Benjamin Franklin, a witness to the famous flight, jotted down plans for weaponizing hot air balloons and creating a giant heat ray, has seized both the renowned inventor and his notebook in pursuit of a nefarious plan to make himself King of America. Here, in a mix of prose and profuse graphite drawings that break into mostly wordless sequential panels for action scenes, Phelan lays out a rousing series of chases, clashes, ambushes, and rescues both on and above the ground on the way to a triumphant outcome. The author adds to the animal trio two young humans to do the piloting. He also trots in a host of other historical personages, including Joseph Guillotin (“as sharp a fellow as you are to find in Paris”), Franz Mesmer, King Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette.

A grand, giddy, and, at times, literally soaring tale. (author’s note) (Adventure. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-291100-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

Dizzyingly silly.

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 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014


A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders.

When a Bengali boy finds and saves a tiger cub from a man who wants to sell her on the black market, he realizes that the schoolwork he resents could lead to a career protecting his beloved Sunderbans island home.

When the not-yet-weaned cub escapes from a nearby reserve, Neel and many of his neighbors join the search. But some are in the pay of greedy Gupta, a shady entrepreneur who’s recently settled in their community. Even Neel’s father is tempted by Gupta’s money, although he knows that Gupta doesn’t plan to take the cub back to the refuge. Neel and his sister use the boy’s extensive knowledge of the island’s swampy interior to find the cub’s hiding place and lure it out so it can be returned to its mother. The Kolkota-born author visited the remote Sunderbans in the course of her research. She lovingly depicts this beautiful tropical forest in the context of Neel’s efforts to find the cub and his reluctance to leave his familiar world. While the conflicts resolve a bit too easily, the sense of place is strong and the tiger cub’s rescue very satisfying. Pastel illustrations will help readers envision the story.

A multicultural title with obvious appeal for animal-loving middle graders. (author's note, organizations, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-660-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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