Aquatic and exotic; a fun and fast-moving tale of friendship.



This debut middle-grade novel sees a young girl discover her heritage and battle intrigue in the Lost City of Atlantis.

Having grown up with her stepfather in Inverness in the Scottish Highlands, 11-year-old Alessia moves to the southwest coast to learn about her long-dead parents. The only keepsake they left her was a special fork, set with a blue gemstone and an engraved sun symbol. Alessia takes the fork everywhere, so she has it with her when an overturned rowboat whisks her away to the bottom of the ocean. Atlantis, it turns out, is a sunken city state, and Alessia is an Atlantide citizen on her father’s side. Atlantis is a place of wonder, yet all is not right there. Alessia’s fork is an entry key to the Octopus’s Garden, a school for young Atlantides. But its emblem has been banned by the despotic Emperor after a group of ex-student dissidents adopted it. Alessia wants to find out more about her father but is warned against asking questions. Instead, she must investigate in secret, helped by her new school friends. Can Alessia get to the heart of the conspiracies surrounding her and the strong empathic reactions she’s suffered throughout her schooling? Laine writes in the third person, past tense, from Alessia’s viewpoint. The prose is simple and descriptive (though occasionally pushing the upper bounds of middle-grade vocabulary). The dialogue is well suited to the characters. The setting of Atlantis (and the wider undersea world “Nethuns”) is colorfully rendered, full of strange creatures and striking cultural adornments. Alessia takes these in stride; likewise the plots, plans, and machinations she uncovers. She is at once inquisitive yet unquestioning. Adult readers may balk at this, but Alessia’s naïveté—her focus on people rather than any higher logic in making decisions—seems very much in keeping with her age group. The author maintains a fast pace throughout and cultivates a diverse, likable cast of characters. For all the overt focus on Alessia’s journey of discovery, the underlying story is steeped in developing friendships. Young readers will enjoy this dynamic as much as the adventure itself.

Aquatic and exotic; a fun and fast-moving tale of friendship.

Pub Date: March 1, 2021


Page Count: 324

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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


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.


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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