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From the Red Blazer Girls series

While this caper proves less brain-teasing and exciting than its predecessors, the four (soon to be five?) Red Blazer gals...

Fresh from solving The Vanishing Violin (2010) mystery, seventh-grade amateur sleuths and best friends Sophie, Margaret, Rebecca and Leigh Ann of St. Veronica’s all-girl’s school in Manhattan tackle two new cases.

This third installment opens with Sophie receiving a broken nose after “accidentally” colliding with arch-rival Livvy at swim practice. When Sophie’s dad arranges for the Red Blazer girls to spend a day with teen idol Nate Etan on his movie set, Sophie agrees to be his dog sitter. The pace accelerates after Father Julian enlists the Red Blazer Girls Detective Agency to tackle two cases. The first involves determining which of two seemingly identical baseballs autographed by the New York Yankees 1928 starting line-up is real. Surprisingly, Nate’s dog helps unravel this one. The second case concerns a painting that could be valuable if the girls can prove it was painted before 1961. As Sophie balances dog-sitting, school, performing in The Blazers band, swim team, worrying about boyfriend Raf and troubling encounters with Livvy, she and her pals piece together the increasingly complex painting puzzle in a frenzied finale. As usual, Sophie narrates with humor and self-effacing aplomb. Visual evidence inserted in the text invites reader participation.

While this caper proves less brain-teasing and exciting than its predecessors, the four (soon to be five?) Red Blazer gals still rock. (Mystery. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-86740-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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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

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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. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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