Treads familiar ground but with hair-raising and cinematic charm.

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COGHEART

From the Cogheart Adventures series , Vol. 1

A new steampunk trilogy introduces dastardly villains, friendly mechanicals, and thrilling airship action.

Robert and Lily, both 13, wouldn’t normally have encountered each other in 1896 England. Lily’s the only nice girl at a nasty finishing school where all the other students and teachers are dreadful and mistreat their mechs. When her father’s airship crashes in a mysterious accident, Lily’s fetched from school by her family housekeeper. But as any astute reader trained on the likes of Roald Dahl will know, an orphan can’t trust her old housekeeper, especially when she covers her face with a black veil, speaks with an unplaceable “foreign” accent, and has been maltreating the family mechs. Robert’s the son of the local clockmaker, eager to help Lily with her quest. But two terrifying baddies with mirrors for eyes are after them both, and it will take all the airship adventure and steam power they can muster to succeed. What dark family secrets was Lily’s dad hiding? Surely his old friend, with the totally trustworthy name of Professor Silverfish, will know more about the important clockwork research. The plot gleefully deploys genre tropes while puzzles lead to a CGI–ready series of climactic escapes. “Cogs and chronometers,” cry the mechs, and “crankshafts and carburetors”! The human (and humanlike) cast members all present white.

Treads familiar ground but with hair-raising and cinematic charm. (map, glossary) (Steampunk. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63163-287-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Jolly Fish Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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