A magnificent novel that defines what it is to be an older brother, a friend, and, yes, even a knight.

THE MIDNIGHT WAR OF MATEO MARTINEZ

“Nobody believed me when I said two skunks stole my old trike. But I’d seen those stinkers take it. Swear.”

Fourth grade brings its share of troubles for Mateo Martinez. His former best friend, Johnny Ramirez, starts to hang out with a couple of bike-riding bullies. Mateo finds a new best friend in Ashwin, an Indian-American boy with a streak of weird in him. Both he and Ashwin spend their lunchtimes at the library, checking out books on knights and medieval warfare. Meanwhile, Mateo must behave as a big brother should with his 5-year-old sister, Mila, a headstrong girl who wants his old tricycle. One night a pair of skunks steals the desired toy. Weird. Things get even weirder when Mateo hears these skunk thieves talk during a stakeout. Yardi packs a lot into such a slim novel, and it’s a testament to her skill that it never once feels like too much. Utilizing a gentle sense of humor and incisive insight, the author negotiates Mateo’s developing identity with aplomb, especially his Mexican-American heritage: “Trying to speak Spanish makes me feel like I’m doing it wrong, and I hate that.” Mateo finds no easy answers, and that’s OK.

A magnificent novel that defines what it is to be an older brother, a friend, and, yes, even a knight. (appendix) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4677-8306-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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