The plot mechanics may not hold up to scrutiny, but the puzzles are clever, and Maria’s adventures are genuinely thrilling;...

THE TREASURE OF MARIA MAMOUN

It’s hard to explain why this book feels quite as old-fashioned as it does.

The treasure hunt is a reliable plot device. It’s been used in Treasure Island and episodes of Scooby-Doo. But it seems jarring here, maybe because the rest of the book feels so modern. Maria Mamoun, a Lebanese–Puerto Rican girl, lives in a New York that actually resembles New York, with an “America, Spanish, and Middle Eastern Grocery,” mean girls, and a mother who works two jobs. But when Maria and her mother move to Martha’s Vineyard (where they’re one of the few nonwhite families), Maria discovers an old parchment map with cryptic clues on the bottom. This is where the plot device becomes a problem: if there’s buried treasure on Martha’s Vineyard, the book will feel hokey and contrived. If there isn’t, the ending will feel like a disappointment. The climax of the story turns out to be logical but not quite satisfying. That’s partly because it’s telegraphed in advance but mostly because Chalfoun has relied on another old device: the sitcom plot. If the characters ever actually talked to each other about the rash decisions they were making, the story would fall apart.

The plot mechanics may not hold up to scrutiny, but the puzzles are clever, and Maria’s adventures are genuinely thrilling; that sort of storytelling never gets old. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30340-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

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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A sympathetic, compelling introduction to wolves from the perspective of one wolf and his memorable journey.

A WOLF CALLED WANDER

Separated from his pack, Swift, a young wolf, embarks on a perilous search for a new home.

Swift’s mother impresses on him early that his “pack belongs to the mountains and the mountains belong to the pack.” His father teaches him to hunt elk, avoid skunks and porcupines, revere the life that gives them life, and “carry on” when their pack is devastated in an attack by enemy wolves. Alone and grieving, Swift reluctantly leaves his mountain home. Crossing into unfamiliar territory, he’s injured and nearly dies, but the need to run, hunt, and live drives him on. Following a routine of “walk-trot-eat-rest,” Swift traverses prairies, canyons, and deserts, encountering men with rifles, hunger, thirst, highways, wild horses, a cougar, and a forest fire. Never imagining the “world could be so big or that I could be so alone in it,” Swift renames himself Wander as he reaches new mountains and finds a new home. Rife with details of the myriad scents, sounds, tastes, touches, and sights in Swift/Wander’s primal existence, the immediacy of his intimate, first-person, present-tense narration proves deeply moving, especially his longing for companionship. Realistic black-and-white illustrations trace key events in this unique survival story, and extensive backmatter fills in further factual information about wolves and their habitat.

A sympathetic, compelling introduction to wolves from the perspective of one wolf and his memorable journey. (additional resources, map) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-289593-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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