Plucky fun.

A spunky preteen girl goes from ostrich rancher to stunt performer in turn-of-the-20th-century moving pictures.

Pearl doesn’t think about much beyond her family’s ranch until Mr. Corrigan, a movie director, brings his Flying Q Film Company to Lemon Springs, California. First he hires Pearl’s older brothers—cowboys all—to act in his silent moving pictures, but when he sees the stunts the 11-year-old can perform, he’s quick to sign on this “nervy” girl. Pearl narrates in short, action-filled chapters, packing in descriptions of caring for ill-tempered ostriches, her risky performances, and plenty of details about the craft of silent filmmaking (including why the film industry moved out west). While stunts are second nature to Pearl, she wonders what it means to act. It comes easily to her nemesis and on-set sister, town gal Mary Mason; their jealous-turned-respectful interactions also drive the plot. Expressive, black line drawings depict some of Pearl’s feats as well as an apparently all-white cast. (The Irish-immigrant cameraman does acknowledge the theft of Native lands by white settlers during filming). An author’s note provides more information about the industry, early stuntwoman Pearl White (the inspiration for Wiley’s protagonist), and La Mesa (the inspiration for Lemon Springs) and its history of filmmaking—and ostrich farming! For another look at a girl in silent movies, this time on the East Coast, pair with Anne Nesbet’s Daring Darleen: Queen of the Screen (2020).

Plucky fun. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-375-87038-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012


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

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