An inventive and lively escapade.



A debut novel sees an orphan with the ability to rewind time pursued by powerful enemies seeking the ultimate weapon.

Fourteen-year-old Abicus Turne and his 12-year-old sister, Binny, are orphans at the Sisters of Mending Hearts Children’s Home in Philadelphia. Three years have passed since their parents’ deaths, and they dream of running away to live with their grandfather in Oregon. Binny is a math prodigy. Abicus lacks any such aptitude, but he does have a unique talent—when the odious Sister Hildegard contrives to poison Binny’s kitten, an abacus appears in the boy’s mind. By sliding the beads from right to left, he finds himself transported back in time. Having saved the kitten, Abicus soon learns to control the time shift. By predetermining the result of a “guess the marbles” contest, he wins enough money for him and Binny—and their friends Kendra and Bosh—to set out for Oregon. But in doing so, Abicus attracts the attention of Weston Fairbanks, a ruthless villain who would use the teen’s special ability to steal a weapon of mass destruction. It’s a weapon that Abicus and Binny’s parents helped design. On the run from both Fairbanks and a black-books government agency, can Abicus, Binny, and friends survive to save the day? Roth writes in a simple descriptive style, narrating primarily in the first person from Abicus’ perspective but occasionally in the third person when he isn’t present, keeping both readers and the protagonist truly in the picture. Dialogue is frequently used to communicate plot points—a contrivance that detracts from the story’s sense of realism—and the characters are similarly middle-grade in their lack of shading. The children are ethical and good. The bad guys are wantonly cruel. Such flaws, though, are by no means fatal. The author develops Abicus’ power in stages, exploring possible repercussions and devising clever means (both physical and moral) by which to limit his use of it. The tale, at the crossroads of middle grade and YA, is thus nicely balanced. Problems beget solutions beget problems in an exciting, well-paced progression. Younger readers in particular will find much here to entertain them.

An inventive and lively escapade.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 248

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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


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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Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 10

Zipping back and forth in time atop outsized robo–bell bottoms, mad inventor Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) legs his way to center stage in this slightly less-labored continuation of episode 9.

The action commences after a rambling recap and a warning not to laugh or smile on pain of being forced to read Sarah Plain and Tall. Pilkey first sends his peevish protagonist back a short while to save the Earth (destroyed in the previous episode), then on to various prehistoric eras in pursuit of George, Harold and the Captain. It’s all pretty much an excuse for many butt jokes, dashes of off-color humor (“Tippy pressed the button on his Freezy-Beam 4000, causing it to rise from the depths of his Robo-Pants”), a lengthy wordless comic and two tussles in “Flip-o-rama.” Still, the chase kicks off an ice age, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Big Bang (here the Big “Ka-Bloosh!”). It ends with a harrowing glimpse of what George and Harold would become if they decided to go straight. The author also chucks in a poopy-doo-doo song with musical notation (credited to Albert P. Einstein) and plenty of ink-and-wash cartoon illustrations to crank up the ongoing frenzy.

Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-17536-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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