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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Rescues and kittens by the carload, with a bit of inner growth on the side.

BASTILLE VS. THE EVIL LIBRARIANS

From the Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series , Vol. 6

Previous prognostications of failure and doom notwithstanding, this bustling entry features miraculous survivals and just deserts for the biblio-baddies.

Switching narrators in the wake of devastating deeds at the end of The Dark Talent (2016), the co-authors pick up the action with stern, stab-happy Bastille describing her rescue of traumatized Alcatraz Smedry from a Library of Congress that is filling up with lava, then a desperate effort to keep ultra-evil librarian Biblioden the Scrivener from forcing the world’s remaining Free Kingdoms to check themselves out permanently. Despite her own forewarnings of a disastrous ending and stern suggestion to start with Volume 1 for the backstory, she does fill in enough of what’s going on for readers to keep pace—and in characteristically take-no-prisoners tones, lays out a rip-roaring tale in which she fulfills her role as Alcatraz’s protector with plenty of brisk (if bloodless) sword work and an unshakeable loyalty that, along with the occasional punch, draws him out of a paralyzing slough of guilt and self-loathing. A climactic battle features a horde of bloodthirsty kittens and a ravenous, punning monster—followed by hints that surviving librarians may be taking up worthier missions and, since Bastille insists on the veracity of this account, credible reasons why people the world around have talents for being late, breaking things, and like peccadillos. Most of the heroically posed figures in Lazo’s realistically modeled illustrations are light-skinned.

Rescues and kittens by the carload, with a bit of inner growth on the side. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-25-081106-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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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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