From the Rush Revere series

Supercool substitute teacher Rush Revere and his time-traveling horse, Liberty, take two students to 1620 to meet such exceptional Americans as William Bradford and Squanto.

In a series of jumps, the amiable Rush takes football player and closet nerd Tommy and pretty, soft-spoken, dark-skinned Freedom (possibly Native American) to such significant moments as the Mayflower’s embarkation from England, its landing at Plymouth and the first Thanksgiving. In their encounters, they learn about the Pilgrims’ quest for religious freedom, the difficult conditions they faced both onboard and in the New World, and how the fledgling colony’s relations with the local Native Americans were established. The presentation of history adheres to the standard narrative presented in classrooms for decades throughout the 20th century. Readers looking for Limbaugh’s politics won’t have to search hard. Tommy and Rush school Bradford in the values of competition and individualism, while Bradford and Squanto give thanks to God for seeing them through adversity. The storytelling that carries history, adventure and politics is breathtakingly inept. The rules governing both time travel and Liberty’s remarkable powers are both inconsistent and so arbitrarily convenient they feel as though they were made up as the author went along. Rush and the children’s interactions with historical figures are thoroughly wooden and elide the basic rules of the genre; Bradford never questions Rush’s late-18th-century getup, for instance, and is stupendously incurious about their monthslong absences. The prose never rises above amateurish and often reads as though written by the middle school students Rush teaches: “Tommy plopped down on a random desk….” Although the faux parchment pages catch the eye, illustration, design and even proofreading (Samoset is consistently misspelled “Somoset” in the text though not in captions or the author’s note) are as rudimentary and slipshod as the prose. The ever hungry Liberty provides needed, if lame, comic relief. A closing quiz leads readers to the website for answers.

Exceptionally bad. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5586-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2014

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


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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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