A well-wrought, well-timed, and satisfying finale to this well-conceived series.

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THE IRON HAND

From the Three Thieves series , Vol. 7

The headlong chase that began in Tower of Treasure (2010) ends in a climactic whirl of dramatic rescues, heated confrontations, and sudden reversals of fortune.

The twists begin at the outset as one-time adversary Capt. Drake is fished from the sea and, having lost his sword arm in The Dark Island (2016), sets to training his former quarry Dessa in combat. With loyal blue sidekick Topper (the “Three Thieves” having been reduced to two by previous events) and other allies, Dessa then sets out to wrest her kidnapped brother, Jared, and the realm of North Huntington from the clutches of the treacherous chamberlain Greyfalcon—only to find her long-lost twin sitting on the throne. Even so, he cannot prevent Dessa from being seized by Greyfalcon…but wonderful surprises waiting for her down in the dungeons pave the way both to a family reunion and a climactic throne-room dust-up. Before that, though, Greyfalcon obligingly explains his back story, motives, and schemes at length in retrospective monochrome panels. Possibly with an eye to sequels Chantler consigns the bad guys to ambiguous fates, but he does wrap up the storyline in a tidy epilogue that carries Dessa and Jared into adulthood and bright, if well-telegraphed, careers. A multiracial pirate crew and a rescued set of kidnapped young royals provide diversity to an otherwise all-white (human) cast.

A well-wrought, well-timed, and satisfying finale to this well-conceived series. (Graphic fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77138-052-2

Page Count: 126

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing.

SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE

From the Sunny series , Vol. 3

Sunny, in seventh grade, finds her score on the Groovy Meter taking some wild swings as her friends’ interests move in different directions.

In a motif that haunts her throughout, Sunny succumbs to a teen magazine’s personality quiz and sees her tally seesaw radically. Her BF Deb has suddenly switched focus to boys, clothes, and bands such as the Bee Gees (this is 1977)—dismissing trick-or-treating and wearing galoshes on rainy days as “babyish.” Meanwhile, Sunny takes delight in joining nerdy neighbors Lev, Brian, and Arun in regular sessions of Dungeons and Dragons (as a fighter character, so cool). The storytelling is predominantly visual in this episodic outing, with just occasional snatches of dialogue and pithy labels to fill in details or mark the passage of time; frequent reaction shots deftly capture Sunny’s feelings of being pulled this way and that. Tellingly, in the Holms’ panels (colored by Pien), Sunny’s depicted as significantly smaller than Deb, visually underscoring her developmental awkwardness. Deb’s comment that “we’re too old to be playing games like that” leads Sunny to drop out of the D&D circle and even go to the school’s staggeringly dull spring dance. Sunny’s mostly white circle of peers expands and becomes more diverse as she continues to navigate her way through the dark chambers and misty passages of early adolescence. Lev is an Orthodox Jew, Arun is South Asian, and Regina, another female friend, has brown skin.

The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-23314-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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