Likely, like its predecessor, to be a fixture on bestseller lists—but not for its imaginative or literary qualities.

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RETURN TO THE ISLE OF THE LOST

From the Descendants series , Vol. 2

Ominous portents in Auradon send the offspring of four Disney villains home—to discover that their evil parents have disappeared.

De la Cruz picks up the plotline roughly where it left off at the end of the 2015 TV film Descendants. Spurred by mysteriously delivered threats and also the discovery of an Anti-Heroes Club posting to a surreptitious Dark Web, Mal, Evie, Jay, and Carlos (more-or-less reformed children of, respectively, Maleficent, Snow White’s Evil Queen, Jafar, and Cruella de Vil) steal away from Auradon Prep’s Castlecoming dance to check out their old haunts in the villains’ island enclave. From there, events dissolve into a confused tangle. After much buildup, the supposedly hostile club turns out to be composed of worshipful groupies (who explain at length how “anti-heroes” are actually cool). A message that the vanished ’rents have collected talismans that will magnify their evil powers sends the four teens in pursuit—to encounter a monster with “huge fanged teeth” and find, confusingly, that the talismans are somehow still in place and ready to be gathered up. A familiar purple dragon laying waste to Camelot’s suburbs turns out, anticlimactically, not to be Maleficent but another, much more easily overcome shape-changer. Even the characters know all this is phoned in: “What are we going to do,” says Carlos, “when they tell us what their evil plan is?” The continued absence of the grown-up baddies, plus a spate of earthquakes and violent weather, remains to be resolved in future sequels.

Likely, like its predecessor, to be a fixture on bestseller lists—but not for its imaginative or literary qualities. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-5071-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

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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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