A rousing, energetic tale with an indelible adolescent hero at the helm.

A young boy, searching for a way to break a curse, struggles to keep an Egyptian artifact out of greedy adults’ hands in this debut 1920s middle-grade adventure.

When 12-year-old Oklahoma “Okie” Smith wished that his bullying older brothers would die, he didn’t think it would really happen. Then both were victims of the 1918 flu epidemic, which also took his beloved mother. In the four years since, Okie has convinced himself that he’s cursed, and he believes that it’s connected to an ancient stone tablet that his archaeologist uncle, Harry, stashed at the Smiths’ Philadelphia home for safekeeping. He thinks that maybe he can stop this curse if he deciphers the tablet’s peculiar symbols, and that’s where Emma Goodwin, a local professor of ancient languages and a museum curator, comes in. Okie soon learns that the tablet has ties to the Egyptian Elixir of Life, which could resurrect the dead. A mysterious Englishman apparently believes this, too, and sends his minions to steal the artifact, even if it means kidnapping Okie or Goodwin’s tween daughter, Alex. The pair, along with Okie’s 20-something brother Monty, must fight to protect the tablet as well as themselves. Hanson’s sprightly novel drops numerous obstacles in Okie’s path, including Goodwin’s professor colleague, Wendell Wright, who seemingly despises Okie, and some boys who are after the scarab amulet that Okie’s uncle gave him. Things frequently appear grim for the young protagonist, but he continually perseveres, and despite his difficult home life, one of his family members later becomes a worthy ally in his battle against dangerous tablet hunters. The story takes several exciting and suspenseful turns as Okie and others dodge baddies, seek escape, or notice a person trailing them. The wholly satisfying ending makes it abundantly clear that this book is the likely start of a prospective series.

A rousing, energetic tale with an indelible adolescent hero at the helm.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2023


From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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