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From the Rymworld Arcana series , Vol. 1

Stumbles at the end but otherwise mindbafoggling and wondificent.

A South Florida teenager who yearns for far horizons really gets his wish.

Calejo delivers a time-travel tale rich in inventive twists. The “wrinkles” (wink, wink) begin with a trio of mysterious strangers named Mr. Now, Mr. Minutes, and Mr. Hoursback. Afterward, 14-year-old Antares de la Vega finds himself abruptly hustled away to a prison in the Bermuda Triangle, where he learns, among other things, that the Earth is actually flat and we spherers are all victims of a huge hoax, that lands like Atlantis actually exist and are full of magical creatures, and that his long-vanished parents may still be alive. Soon, along with fierce fellow prisoner Magdavellía and her robotic bodyguard, Deus Ex, he’s engaged in a desperate race to beat a mysterious warlord in finding a compass that will lead to an island where one can find knowledge, youth, power, and wealth. Besides weaving significant elements ranging from ley lines and Platonic solids to Martians into the plot, the author plays creatively with language (“It’s mindbafoggling!” “This is wondificent!”). But a scary climax that cuts off abruptly with an epilogue featuring newspaper headlines will leave readers puzzled as to whether events have somehow been resolved offstage or have just been suspended until the next episode. Antares, prone to panic attacks and foot-in-mouth disease, is a winning protagonist who is Mexican and Cuban on his father’s side and Indian and Irish on his mother’s. There are occasional monochrome illustrations.

Stumbles at the end but otherwise mindbafoggling and wondificent. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781419759888

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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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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