DasGupta once again wittily meshes Bengali folktales, intergalactic science, and a spectacular world of her own creation in...

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GAME OF STARS

From the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series , Vol. 2

In this sequel to DasGupta’s middle-grade debut, The Serpent’s Secret (2018), readers learn that Parsippany, New Jersey, middle schooler Kiranmala has not returned to the Kingdom Beyond Seven Oceans and Thirteen Rivers for months.

In fact, none of the Indian-American’s friends from the Kingdom Beyond—especially princes Lalkamal and Neelkamal, their cousin Mati, and the bird Tuntuni—has contacted her since her departure. But after she is visited by the Rakkhoshi Queen under the cloak of night and prompted by an interdimensional television station to enter Who Wants to Be a Demon Slayer?, a multiverse reality game show, Kiranmala sets off to the Kingdom for another rollicking roller-coaster ride of an adventure, featuring a fork fight with a demon school dropout, an intergalactic auto-rikshaw ride, and a mind-boggling series of riddles with a ghost. In this outing DasGupta draws inspiration from American and South Asian pop culture in addition to Bengali folk and children’s literature, and an extensive author’s note provides readers with additional context for many of the cheeky references peppered throughout the book (the “Dead and Lovely” cream hawked in interdimensional TV ads is inspired by fairness creams that are ubiquitous on the Subcontinent, and “Samosa Drones” are a nod to Amazon’s suggestion that they might use drones for book deliveries). Kiran’s smart, funny voice will win new fans and gratify returning readers.

DasGupta once again wittily meshes Bengali folktales, intergalactic science, and a spectacular world of her own creation in a yarn that is part hero’s quest, part immigrant coming-of-age tale . (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-18573-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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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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