A bit overlong and slapdash-feeling, but amiable.

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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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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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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