THE CRYSTAL PRISON

Redwall meets Goosebumps in the middle of the Deptford Mice Trilogy. Frivolous young Audrey is assigned to accompany the rat fortune-teller Madame Akkikuyu, who lost her wits after confronting the sinister Jupiter, and now fantasizes that Audrey is her best friend. Audrey, her brother Arthur, and their friend the fieldmouse, Twit, escort Akkikuyu to Fennywolde, Twit’s rural home. But this once-idyllic enclave is now terrorized by a barn owl’s predations, and dispirited by the puritanical ranting of Isaac Nettle, devotee of the Green Mouse. While Akkikuyu’s bravery and healing potions win the hearts of the Fennywolders, Audrey’s city ways earn sniffs of disapproval. As corn shrivels in the heat, and a mysterious murderer stalks the night, dislike turns to suspicion and to mob hysteria. Only the tragic sacrifices of two unlikely heroes save Audrey from lynching and free Fennywolde from a lurking evil. Like its predecessor (The Dark Portal, 2000), this is a terrific page-turner, drenched in foreboding atmosphere and punctuated with grisly discoveries and sinister revelations. If only Jarvis could write memorable characters! The Fennywolders never develop beyond caricatures of vanity, nobility, fanaticism, etc.; even the personalities of Audrey and Akkikuyu seem driven arbitrarily by the demands of the plot. Not that fans will care—not when they can indulge in delicious shudders at the evil spirit Nicodemus’s lurid whispering, the abusive Nettle’s vicious ravings, and (best of all) the veiled prophetic hints of even darker manifestations to come. Shivery good fun. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-58717-107-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: SeaStar/North-South

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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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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An impressive sequel.

PAX, JOURNEY HOME

Boy and fox follow separate paths in postwar rebuilding.

A year after Peter finds refuge with former soldier Vola, he prepares to leave to return to his childhood home. He plans to join the Junior Water Warriors, young people repurposing the machines and structures of war to reclaim reservoirs and rivers poisoned in the conflict, and then to set out on his own to live apart from others. At 13, Peter is competent and self-contained. Vola marvels at the construction of the floor of the cabin he’s built on her land, but the losses he’s sustained have left a mark. He imposes a penance on himself, reimagining the story of rescuing the orphaned kit Pax as one in which he follows his father’s counsel to kill the animal before he could form a connection. He thinks of his heart as having a stone inside it. Pax, meanwhile, has fathered three kits who claim his attention and devotion. Alternating chapters from the fox’s point of view demonstrate Pax’s care for his family—his mate, Bristle; her brother; and the three kits. Pax becomes especially attached to his daughter, who accompanies him on a journey that intersects with Peter’s and allows Peter to not only redeem his past, but imagine a future. This is a deftly nuanced look at the fragility and strength of the human heart. All the human characters read as White. Illustrations not seen.

An impressive sequel. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-293034-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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