An adventure that delivers plenty of suspense, a lively tween voice, and some familiar elements.

Parental conflict and an escaped convict with a grudge complicate a boy’s life in this middle-grade novel.

In his first-person narrative, seventh grader Kevin is worried about his parents’ arguments. But with hopes of catching a record-breaking catfish, he’s still looking forward to a spring break trip with his best friends, Preech and Rudy. Kevin’s also eager to learn if the odd stones the three found may be valuable. His worries multiply when Rudy’s stepfather, Ted, the man Kevin helped put in prison, escapes and forces the appalled boy to help him hide. With the safety of Rudy and his own family at stake—including the irrepressible little sister he adores—Kevin feels he has no one to turn to, not even the wise, outdoors-savvy, one-legged veteran soldier the boys call “The Oracle.” Ted, as grossly repulsive as he is dangerous, is a genuine threat in the story, and Richter maintains an authentic balance between Kevin’s courageous bravado and his desperate efforts to keep the fugitive away from those he cares about. (At the sight of Ted’s dilapidated hideout, Kevin says, “fear crawled up my spine like a tarantula. The busted windows were like eyes, and the hole where the front door had been looked like a mouth caught mid-scream.”) Still, despite suspense galore in Kevin’s dangerous predicament involving Ted’s harsh demands, the significance of the three boys’ potentially valuable “lucky rocks,” why Kevin feels guilt over his parents’ conflict, and The Oracle’s quest for his long-missing wife have a strong air of familiarity, recalling events that took place in the author’s debut middle-grade novel, Lucky Rocks (2014), featuring the same characters. Richter does deftly recap for readers Ted’s vicious behavior that occurred in the first book to explain the continuing hatred and fear that Kevin and his friends feel toward him and to give the hero another understandable reason for acting alone in his frightening interactions with the prison escapee. In the end, wrapped up in a chilling plot twist, Kevin learns a freeing lesson about trust and communication and the author offers a teaser of more tales to come.

An adventure that delivers plenty of suspense, a lively tween voice, and some familiar elements.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2021


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019


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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