Complex, timely, and deeply moving.

Fairy penguins have always been safe on their island off the coast of Western Australia, but something frightening is happening.

The tale unfolds in alternating chapters, each focusing on one of the three protagonists. Twelve-year-old homeschooled Addie lives by the beach with her overprotective widower dad and beloved dog, Max. Imaginative and sometimes lonely, she can be impulsive and daring, especially if her beloved sea creatures are at risk. Fortunately, Addie finds like-minded friends and mentors through her youth environmental group. Max follows Addie closely, bringing his own special canine abilities and insights and overcoming his fears to help protect the penguins they befriend. Then there is tiny penguin Darwin, a misfit and loner who’s the first to recognize the escalating dangers to his colony; though he has difficulty communicating his concerns to the other penguins, he’s determined to find a solution. Climate change is contributing to the ability of predator foxes to reach the island via a path newly opened by extreme low tides, putting the vulnerable fairy penguins in peril. Each chapter overlaps just a bit, with clues and epiphanies that move the action forward slowly at first, later building to a rapid, heart-stopping crescendo. Aided by Addie’s TikTok videos, an international community of viewers, and a strategy generated by Addie, Max, and Darwin, the colony is saved—at least for now. Despite being of different species, the protagonists are devoted to each other, and their cause will capture readers’ hearts.

Complex, timely, and deeply moving. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2023

ISBN: 9781338893250

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023


From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023


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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