An eminently satisfying closer to a thoughtful, complex, and very funny adventure series.

THE CHAOS CURSE

From the Kingdom Beyond series , Vol. 3

In the third installment of DasGupta’s bestselling series, 12-year-old demon slayer Kiranmala and her friends must stop her father, the Serpent King, from collapsing the parallel dimensions of the multiverse into one in a nefarious plot to destroy its diversity.

Having saved Prince Neelkamal from her father at the end of Game of Stars (2019), Kiran must now save Prince Lalkamal, Neel’s brother, trapped in a New Jersey tree. But as Kiran traverses the multiverse, things get strange(r): When her auto-rickshaw collides with a pumpkin, the old woman who tumbles out turns from the woman from a well-loved folktale into the story’s ferocious tiger. The “story-smushing thing” keeps happening, and when a wormhole lands Kiran back in New Jersey, she returns to parents who are “colonized beyond repair”—they keep referring to her as “Karen” and rejecting her bicultural Bengali American identity. In line with its predecessors, this adventure is characteristically action-packed and funny: DasGupta riddles the text with in-jokes and puns, and her verbal gymnastics are wink-winks to readers who are fluent in Bengali or Hindi and/or familiar with South Asian culture. But this book is also the most ambitious of the trilogy. Not only does it draw inspiration from Bengali folklore, South Asian and American pop culture, and metaphysics, it also reinforces seamlessly and with righteousness the series’ central themes: that stories are powerful, and that many stories are necessary to imagine a just future.

An eminently satisfying closer to a thoughtful, complex, and very funny adventure series. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35589-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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