The cliffhanger ending leaves the portal open for a sequel; with luck, readers won’t have to wait long for Book 2.

THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS

Griffin Fenn and his father, Philip, enjoy a quiet life looking after a lighthouse on the Oregon coast.

Suddenly, their calm, ordered world is shattered by the arrival of the mysterious Society of Lighthouse Keepers. The Keepers need Philip’s help with the light’s lens, which Griffin learns is a portal linking Earth to seven other worlds. After reluctantly agreeing, Philip disappears through the portal, leaving Griffin on his own with the Society and its dubious intentions. Griffin turns to his dad’s journal, his late mother’s bedtime stories about imaginary worlds, and his own knowledge of glass to find his way through the portal. The portal takes Griffin to Somni, an invading world where wicked priests control an entire populace with stolen magic. Then Griffin meets Fi, a member of a covert group of revolutionaries who have evaded the spell and are planning to bring down the priests. If Griffin wants to rescue his dad, he’ll have to join the resistance. The smooth third-person narration moves back and forth between Griffin and Fi. They are both resilient, self-reliant, and determined; readers will cheer them on until the end. Action is well-paced, making for a fast read that ends too soon. The book’s diversity isn’t among the people of Earth, who present white, but among the denizens of the different worlds.

The cliffhanger ending leaves the portal open for a sequel; with luck, readers won’t have to wait long for Book 2. (Fantasy. 8-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0514-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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