Maybe the next episode will be less derivative. There’s always hope.


From the Creature from My Closet series , Vol. 2

The second doll-sized literary mashup to come out of a wimpy kid’s magic closet (see Wonkenstein, 2011) adds wizardly spells and, far more frequently, noxious smells to a standard catalog of preteen misadventures.

Having reintroduced his family (“I mean my mom calls me Ribert, and if she’s not humiliating me, she’s sleeping”), Robert explains the origins of the pocket companion he dubs “Hairy.” He chattily goes on to record efforts to save his little buddy from rough friends, his little brother, a garbage truck and an aggressive owl, along with his repeated transformation into a dork whenever he runs into dreamboat neighbor Janae. Amid references to monkey waste, a modified version of Old Maid called “Yo Mama” and other strained laffs, he recruits said friends to reform a bully by tying the punk to a graveyard tree one night. He also creates what turns out to be a revolting concoction for a cooking contest in hopes of appearing on Average Chef, “TV’s third most watched reality cooking show.” Still sailing along in Jeff Kinney’s wake format-wise, Skye presents Rob’s tally of haps and mishaps in a mix of block print and frequent, wobbly line drawings with punch lines and side remarks in dialogue balloons. In the end, Hairy leaves his tiny wand as a keepsake and returns to the closet, setting the stage for Rob’s next visitor: Pinocula.

Maybe the next episode will be less derivative. There’s always hope. (Comic fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9451-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A quick pull on a reliable, if not exactly minty-fresh, formula.


Walliams drills into a primal fear with this tale of a new dentist with a decidedly evil agenda.

In a blatant grab at Roald Dahl fans, the author pulls out a cast of cheeky children, thoroughly rotten villains, and clueless but well-meaning grown-ups for a Brit-flavored romp that combines moments of intense terror and bracing courage with biting satire—oh, and gruesome bits. Ross offers a plethora of loosely sketched ink-and-wash vignettes generally indistinguishable from Quentin Blake’s. All over town, children have been putting lost teeth beneath their pillows and, instead of money, getting cat poo, oozing scabs, and like rewards. Worse yet, following shocked comments about the state of 12-year-old Alfie’s “teet,” canny Winnie, a flamboyant new West Indian social worker, tricks the lad into visiting the newly arrived (with her cat, Fang) dentist, Miss Root. Alfie regains consciousness with nary a tooth in his mouth—it seems that Miss Root is the Tooth Witch herself. She’s not to be stopped, either, without help from new, dreadlocked friend (not girlfriend) Gabz, a vat of acid with revolting ingredients (carefully listed), and lots of dynamite. Walliams spritzes the narrative with made-up but not particularly inventive words and large-type screaming. Winnie, dark-skinned Gabz (short for Gabriella), and newsagent Raj are the only notable nonwhite characters; Winnie’s accent is an unfortunate running joke.

A quick pull on a reliable, if not exactly minty-fresh, formula. (pictorial cast list) (Horror. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-241704-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Contrived at some points, polemic at others, but a stout defense of the right to read.


A shy fourth-grader leads the revolt when censors decimate her North Carolina school’s library.

In a tale that is dominated but not overwhelmed by its agenda, Gratz takes Amy Anne, a young black bibliophile, from the devastating discovery that her beloved From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler has been removed from the library at the behest of Mrs. Spencer, a despised classmate’s mom, to a qualified defense of intellectual freedom at a school board meeting: “Nobody has the right to tell you what books you can and can’t read except your parents.” Meanwhile, as more books vanish, Amy Anne sets up a secret lending library of banned titles in her locker—a ploy that eventually gets her briefly suspended by the same unsympathetic principal who fires the school’s doctorate-holding white librarian for defiantly inviting Dav Pilkey in for an author visit. Characters frequently serve as mouthpieces for either side, sometimes deadly serious and other times tongue-in-cheek (“I don’t know about you guys, but ever since I read Wait Till Helen Comes, I’ve been thinking about worshipping Satan”). Indeed, Amy Anne’s narrative is positively laced with real titles that have been banned or challenged and further enticing teasers for them.

Contrived at some points, polemic at others, but a stout defense of the right to read. (discussion guide) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8556-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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