A short, charming tale of boyhood adventure in the great outdoors.

THE MYSTERY OF GLASS ISLAND

Two young brothers attempt to solve the mystery of a remote island in Burton’s debut YA novella.

Rick Brown, 14, and his brother, Bob, 12, are excited by the prospect of spending the summer in their parents’ tiny cabin on the otherwise uninhabited Glass Island. It’s only 8 miles from their small Canadian fishing village but a world away from the usual humdrum of summer vacation. They quickly set about to discover the island’s secrets—a strange overgrown path visible only from above, a network of caves and the inexplicable reflective phenomenon, seen only at night, that gives the island its name. Burton’s story hearkens back to an earlier era of YA by showing an earnest appreciation for simple activities such as hiking and camping, a love for animals, and a wondrous appetite for nature and mystery. The simplicity of these pleasures stands out when contrasted with the unpleasant realities of the boys’ normal lives. Their parents and neighbors work in the dangerous, inconsistent commercial fishing industry; relatives are sick, elderly and poor. These issues are never foremost in Rick’s mind, yet the reader can see how they lead to his need for adventure and escape. Burton’s strategy of allowing these motivations to remain in the background sets the story apart from much contemporary YA. The tale generates its own momentum instead of relying on the drama of tragedy, which stays at the margins. Despite a number of missteps that temporarily distract—all characters, young and old, sound like senior citizens, and a major plot point involves some highly anachronistic villains—the novella doesn’t flag. It’s not overly concerned with its own credulity or deeper meaning; it’s a campfire story, captivating and short-lived.

A short, charming tale of boyhood adventure in the great outdoors.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-1483977997

Page Count: 126

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2014

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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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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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