Effective worldbuilding, strong character development, and fast-paced action make for an entertaining adventure.

THE BOY WITH THE SWORD

From the Dragon Run series , Vol. 2

In this middle-grade fantasy sequel, a boy who defeated dragons must confront a powerful magic wielder.

In Book 1 of this series, 12-year-old Alluencien “Al” Pilgrommor earned a zero rank on Testing Day, putting himself and his family in danger. He was sent away, but being zero also allowed Al to survive being bombarded with Potentia, “the source of all magic,” giving him special powers—some remaining untapped. In a great battle, Al poisoned and overthrew the dragons ruling his society, which freed the five races. Now, the grounds outside Castle Surflienne are littered with dragon corpses, and the imperious Magister Trejir arrives, appointing himself ruler. Feeling devastated by his father’s continued rejection and sensing danger from Trejir, Al goes to Dockside, where he learns two disturbing facts: the Feathers—a secret organization that helped Al kill the dragons—are being hunted, and Trejir has taken the boy’s mother hostage. Not only that, Trejir has gotten hold of a dragon egg and means to reestablish tyranny. As Al works to defeat Trejir, he gathers allies and becomes known as the boy with the sword, which is conspicuously a little too big for him. If Al can learn more about his abilities and how to use them in time, his coalition might have a chance. Matthews (Dragon Run, 2013) takes his exciting sword-and-sorcery tale to some unexpected places here, with well-drawn vignettes of Dockside society and a compelling backstory. For example, because the dragons rewrote history and claimed to have created humans, Al is a monster, not a hero, to many—including his own mother. Al’s enjoyably ragtag associates include the spirits of Castle Surflienne’s last human rulers, which inhabit the very stones. Al’s considerable powers are balanced by his feelings of rejection, and he grows through his experiences, learning to plan and think ahead. But diction is sometimes too modern; words like “mom,” “dad,” “guy,” “okay,” and the intensifier “super” take readers out of this medieval-ish world.

Effective worldbuilding, strong character development, and fast-paced action make for an entertaining adventure.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73307-770-5

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Second Story Up

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2019

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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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