Shaky—but with undeniable potential.

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THE WINGSNATCHERS

From the Carmer and Grit series , Vol. 1

Magical stagecraft, steampunk mechanisms, and glittering faerie dust intermesh in a debut middle-grade fantasy.

Felix Cassius Tiberius Carmer III may be a shy and shabby orphan, but his tinkering genius has encouraged Antoine the Amazifier and his traveling show to try their luck at a prestigious competition for stage illusionists. While exploring the host city, Carmer accidentally joins forces with one-winged faerie princess Grettifrida (or, as she insists, Grit) to foil the schemes of an evil industrialist enslaving faeries as a cheap source of power. First in a projected series, this adventure overflows with imaginative conceits; unfortunately, the disparate genres feel slapped together with little consistency or depth in a jarringly unmoored world. There is barely any sense of setting and, except for a stereotyped Romani fortuneteller and a discordant Yiddish toast, no reference to ethnicity. The book’s default for both humans and faeries is white. Carmer makes for a charming hero—clever, compassionate, and exceedingly humble—but Grit, despite her refreshingly matter-of-fact representation of disability, is little more than a selfish brat. Meanwhile, every potential hint of interesting nuance to the villains is hurriedly deflated by a bout of mustachio-twirling depravity. If the narrative voice is a bit too arch and the whimsy somewhat forced, the insidious creepy horror and galloping pace are still effective, right up to the unexpectedly gruesome fate of the nefarious evildoers.

Shaky—but with undeniable potential. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61620-663-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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