A page-turner with an intrepid protagonist.


Thirteen-year-old Valor is determined to rescue her twin sister, Sasha, from Tyur’ma—a children’s prison resembling Siberian forced-labor camps.

There’s some nice bending of gender tropes right from the start: Valor has the excellent archery skills of her mother—the omnipotent queen’s first huntswoman—and Sasha, poised to be the princess’s adviser, has the intellectual skills and interests of their father—the queen’s top political adviser. Valor’s entire family has been disgraced by Sasha’s imprisonment for allegedly stealing a politically important music box, although the object has not been recovered. In order to free her sister, Valor deliberately gets herself arrested and sent to Tyur’ma. Valor relates the action-packed, suspenseful tale in present tense. Her first hours at the juvenile hall from hell convince her that she must trust a few other inmates to help with her breakout plans. Enormous, tattooed guards called Peacekeepers, a warden whose eyes and personality match the icy landscape, ferocious wolves, heart-racing action scenes, and frequent, impossible brushes with death give the text a feeling of fantasy, although there are no allusions to magic. Valor is both true to her name and resourceful. She also humbly acknowledges her shortcomings, especially errors in judgment, as the plot twists and turns. The satisfying ending includes an easy lead toward a sequel: the real music-box thief has suddenly disappeared. Russian names and words are abundant; the world appears to be populated by light-skinned characters.

A page-turner with an intrepid protagonist. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68119-131-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.


After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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