A girl-centered hero’s journey, at once princess-free and enchanting.

Two lonely preteens meet in Sisterland, a beguiling world of wonders, and begin to forget their snowbound world and the families they left behind.

Alice is following wolf tracks that have appeared from nowhere when she falls through the snow, losing consciousness and then awakening to a night sky sparkling with stars and five moons. The tracks belong to a shape-shifter who gives her a key to open the gate to the Garden of Secrets. Inside, she finds Marissa, a strange girl who’s arrived the same way. It’s always summer in this lush and forested garden, home to the inquisitive question flowers, wind fairies, dream weavers, singing roses—and it’s constantly changing. Exploring its dreamlike wonders together, the girls grow close. As they lose track of time, they’re occasionally troubled—Alice especially—by memories and dreams of the world and families they barely remember. Their idyll’s interrupted when they’re told the powerful queen ruling Sisterland is sending the snow that’s overwhelmed their world and only the girls can save it. When their difficult quest leads to a tragic separation, the way forward is less clear. Well served by Witesman’s supple translation from Finnish, Simukka incorporates elements from classic children’s literature inventively. The enticing setting, quirky creatures, and humans (who default to white) are entertaining, but the passionate friendship is the story’s heart, providing emotional heft.

A girl-centered hero’s journey, at once princess-free and enchanting. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1878-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019


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


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

Dizzyingly silly.

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 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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