Fans of How to Capture an Invisible Cat (2015) will find an agreeable extension of its high jinks.

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HOW TO OUTSMART A BILLION ROBOT BEES

From the Genius Factor series , Vol. 2

Having “stabilized Nothingness” with gravity waves, supergenius Nate Bannister has created an Infinite Engine, and the nefarious Red Death Tea Society is naturally out to get it.

As megalomaniac supervillain and tea fanatic Jakob Maculte commands not only a veritable army of trained assassins, but teeming clouds of surgically altered bumblebees, it looks like no one can stop him from seizing the Engine and achieving his evil goal of “world domination through science.” No one, that is, except Nate and his resourceful, if only normally bright friend Delphine—with assistance from the hosts of nanobots and other gadgets that pour willy-nilly from the young inventor’s brain. Though Delphine spends so much time punching her insufficiently communicative partner that their relationship has an uncomfortably abusive edge, her comment that she likes her ostracized classmate because he’s smart, not despite it, is well-taken. Also, she proves a sturdy sidekick and problem-solver whether the challenge is saving the world or defusing a romantic rivalry with Betsy, Nate’s mercurial talking car. After narrow squeaks aplenty, the bees and thugs are eventually driven off and Maculte hauled away to (temporary, as it turns out) confinement. Lafontaine adds occasional vignettes featuring an all-white cast of heroic sixth-graders and sinister villains with melodramatic facial hair.

Fans of How to Capture an Invisible Cat (2015) will find an agreeable extension of its high jinks. (Science fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61963-897-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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