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


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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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


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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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.


The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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