Phrases like “comic-book villain” are sometimes used to describe cardboard characters, but actual comic books tend to be...

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ATTACK OF THE ALIEN HORDE

From the Miles Taylor and the Golden Cape series , Vol. 1

This comic-book–style adventure is not a subtle book.

The assistant principal at Chapman Middle School is named Mr. Harangue. A local news reporter is named Steve Voyeur. The lead villain is an evil alien named Lord Commander Calamity. The main character, on the other hand, is just called Miles Taylor because—like many great superheroes—he’s mild-mannered and unassuming until he puts on his cape. Venditti borrows from all the great superheroes: Superman and the Martian Manhunter and The Greatest American Hero. But mostly, Miles is reminiscent of Captain Marvel from the Shazam! comics, a young boy who turns into a caped crusader when people are in trouble. The format even shifts from text to stiffly drawn comic-book panels every time he puts on the costume. In the book’s one original touch, Miles can only use his powers when he’s performing a selfless good deed; otherwise, he’s just a kid in a goofy-looking cape. The plot might seem less derivative if the prose had the slightest bit of nuance, but sentence after sentence reads like this description of the alien invaders: “They were the opposite of happiness. They were the opposite of generosity and selflessness and basic decency.”

Phrases like “comic-book villain” are sometimes used to describe cardboard characters, but actual comic books tend to be more sophisticated than that. Readers may prefer them to this surprisingly bland novel. (Adventure. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0542-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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