A bit overlong and slapdash-feeling, but amiable.

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GOBLINS

Sundry creatures and an affable aspiring hero stumble and bumble around a magically infused landscape.

Skarper the goblin lives in one of seven ruined towers surrounding an ancient, sealed-up Keep. Goblin gangs (including Skarper’s) have overrun the towers, fighting each other and scrambling for treasures. As Skarper has learned to read the lettuce (letters) that make up worms (words) and form burks (books)—other goblins use burks as “bumwipe”—he’s declared “too clever by half” and launched sky-high from a “bratapult.” He survives and meets Henwyn, a rather dimwitted human boy who’d rather be a hero than a cheesewright and seeks “evils to fight: proper ones, not made of cheese.” Skarper, Henwyn and others—including a giant, three “self-styled sorcerers” and a gray-haired princess in her 40s who nonetheless needs rescuing (some things never change)—blunder around, fighting baddies while at odds with one another’s goals. Some workings go unexplained (how does a one-legged goblin move around? How do characters reach a ship atop a tower?). In a device that doesn’t always work, playful humor (Henwyn is “stout of heart and damp of socks”) contrasts with the formal epic-fantasy voice Reeve uses for background (“the lands of the west, where men are few and some of the old magic lingers”). That exposition feels far distant, yet it’s key to the climax, which features the Keep imploding like Tolkien’s Barad-dûr.

A bit overlong and slapdash-feeling, but amiable. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-22220-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Another epic outing in a graphic hybrid series that continues not just to push the envelope, but tear it to shreds.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE SENSATIONAL SAGA OF SIR STINKS-A-LOT

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 12

Pranksters George and Harold face the deadliest challenge of their checkered careers: a supersmart, superstrong gym teacher.

With the avowed aim of enticing an audience of “grouchy old people” to the Waistband Warrior’s latest exploit, Pilkey promises “references to health care, gardening, Bob Evans restaurants, hard candies, FOX News, and gentle-yet-effective laxatives.” He delivers, too. But lest fans of the Hanes-clad hero fret, he also stirs in plenty of fart jokes, brain-melting puns, and Flip-O-Rama throwdowns. After a meteorite transforms Mr. Meaner into a mad genius (evil, of course, because “as everyone knows, most gym teachers are inherently evil”) and he concocts a brown gas that turns children into blindly obedient homework machines, George and Harold travel into the future to enlist aid from their presumably immune adult selves. Temporarily leaving mates and children (of diverse sexes, both) behind, Old George and Old Harold come to the rescue. But Meaner has a robot suit (of course he has a robot suit), and he not only beats down the oldsters, but is only fazed for a moment when Capt. Underpants himself comes to deliver a kick to the crotch. Fortunately, gym teachers, “like toddlers,” will put anything in their mouths—so an ingestion of soda pop and Mentos at last spells doom, or more accurately: “CHeffGoal-D’BLOOOM!”

Another epic outing in a graphic hybrid series that continues not just to push the envelope, but tear it to shreds. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-50492-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme.

KATT VS. DOGG

An age-old rivalry is reluctantly put aside when two young vacationers are lost in the wilderness.

Anthropomorphic—in body if definitely not behavior—Dogg Scout Oscar and pampered Molly Hissleton stray from their separate camps, meet by chance in a trackless magic forest, and almost immediately recognize that their only chance of survival, distasteful as the notion may be, lies in calling a truce. Patterson and Grabenstein really work the notion here that cooperation is better than prejudice founded on ignorance and habit, interspersing explicit exchanges on the topic while casting the squabbling pair with complementary abilities that come out as they face challenges ranging from finding food to escaping such predators as a mountain lion and a pack of vicious “weaselboars.” By the time they cross a wide river (on a raft steered by “Old Jim,” an otter whose homespun utterances are generally cribbed from Mark Twain—an uneasy reference) back to civilization, the two are BFFs. But can that friendship survive the return, with all the social and familial pressures to resume the old enmity? A climactic cage-match–style confrontation before a worked-up multispecies audience provides the answer. In the illustrations (not seen in finished form) López plops wide-eyed animal heads atop clothed, more or less human forms and adds dialogue balloons for punchlines.

A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-41156-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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