A soldier’s stubborn persistence in a sanitized but still interesting adventure.


From the Great Escapes series

The tale of a real-life pilot’s many attempts to escape from German prisoner-of-war camps in World War II.

Bill Ash, a poor, white Texas man, is so eager to fight Nazis that he can’t wait for America. Instead, more than a year before the United States joins the war, Bill goes to Canada and enlists in the Royal Air Force. He loves being a Spitfire pilot, but he’s soon shot down in France and, after some time in hiding, is sent to Stalag Luft III, a POW camp. Protected by the Geneva Conventions, the POWs are treated much better than Nazi prisoners in concentration camps or death camps (explained in one of several historical sidebars). That doesn’t mean Bill is content to stay safely imprisoned, however. Desperate to get back to the fighting, he unsuccessfully attempts to escape from imprisonment time and time again even as the Nazis punish him with time in “the cooler.” Some of his attempts are merely opportunistic, such as dashing from a work detail for freedom. Others are elaborate, such as a pleasantly gross tale of digging a tunnel underneath the latrines, complete with ingenious contraptions jury-rigged from Red Cross relief parcels. With the POWs’ (historically accurate) insulation from the war’s atrocities, this becomes a mostly low-stakes, exciting tale of wartime derring-do. Invented dialogue tips this story over into fiction.

A soldier’s stubborn persistence in a sanitized but still interesting adventure. (author’s note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-286036-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

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 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...


A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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