A superb young duo leads this smart and consistently diverting fantasy.

THE GRAVITY THIEF

Two gifted tweens’ investigation into stolen paintings pits them against a villain constructing a chaos-generating machine in this third installment of a middle-grade series.

Someone has purloined the Vermeer painting The Music Lesson from the Emily Sears Museum in Boston. During her class field trip, 12-year-old Lucy Nightingale lingers at the crime scene and hears a boy crying—a ghost, perhaps. Sounds like a case for SLARP; through Sam and Lucy’s Anomalies Research Project, she and her pal Sam Winter look into “unusual happenings.” Lucy returns to the museum after hours and learns the apparent ghost is Peter, a young boy from the stolen painting. Speaking to other “Visitors” from the museum’s artworks, she decides to recover the work, as without it, Peter’s lamprolite (essentially his life force) will fade quickly. It seems thieves have been regularly taking Vermeer paintings, all for a mastermind who wants the shapes hidden within the art. They’re the key to building a world-changing machine, which the mastermind wants to use for manipulating gravity and sending things, like entire countries, into a black hole. As this villain is associated with the Konference, “a secret society of geniuses” that’s initiating Sam, the tweens have a chance to thwart the evil plan. Lodge’s brisk fantasy is delightful thanks to its two investigating friends. They complement each other—“field agent” Lucy handles physical tasks that “unathletic” Sam avoids—and are never condescending. The story touches on a host of scientific concepts that characters usually comprehensively explain. Moreover, there are intermittent photographs of superlative art—not solely Vermeer’s—along with Hilaire’s bold, colorful, cartoon-style illustrations. Readers new to the series may be taken aback by the abrupt appearances of supernatural elements, from Lucy and Sam’s telepathy to the latter’s asserting that Quetzals, his “super phone” invention, “aren’t dependent on earth technology.” But that should prompt readers’ interest in this series’ preceding installments.

A superb young duo leads this smart and consistently diverting fantasy. (glossary, author bio)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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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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