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The author of the Deptford Mice trilogy extends his trademark blend of fantasy and horror into an entirely imaginary world. In a remote corner of Hagwood reside the werlings, a tiny folk who, like the hedgehog, know one big thing—in their case, the art of “wergling,” or shape-changing. But young Gamaliel Tumpin miserably fails to master it, subjecting him to mockery from his bossy sister, his oafish schoolmates, and his acidulous teacher, despite kindly support from the wergling wunderkind Finnen Lufkin. While on a class trip under Finnen’s supervision, Gamaliel and some fellow students run afoul of the ghastly Frighty Aggie, a legendary wergler horribly malformed by indulging in the craft’s forbidden aspects. Saved by the Wandering Smith, a fugitive from the Faerie court, they are horrified to learn that the vicious Queen threatens their peaceful existence. The Smith has stolen the secret of her one vulnerability, and she has sent her monstrous Thorn Ogres to retrieve it; and now the forgotten race of werlings are in the way. Jarvis (The Final Reckoning, p. 1034, etc.) grants his werlings a credible society and an intriguing talent, and shifts adeptly from conjuring the blood-pounding horror of Frighty Aggie’s grisly lair to evoking the haunting serenity of the werlings’ mystical burial grove. While the twee names and one-note characterizations do grate in the slow-paced beginning, the narrative gradually builds tension to a furious, action-packed climax. Fantasy adventure fans will be grateful for the cliffhanger ending that promises another installment. (Fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-15-216752-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Silver Whistle/Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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