SAM SAVES THE NIGHT

From the SleepWakers series , Vol. 1

A girl discovers a spectral world of jovial abandon when all she wanted was a cure for somnambulism.

Sam is a sleepwalker—has been for most of her 13 years. The bully at her middle school constantly makes fun of her sleep-deprived state. Lately, her nightly escapades are getting more and more dangerous (think: waking-up-in-a-tree-with-a-running-power-tool level of danger), so her anxiety-ridden mother takes her to an unorthodox specialist. His treatment works, and Sam can finally get a good night’s sleep—but she’s shocked to discover that now her soul separates from her body as she slumbers! Guided by another “detached” person, the oh-so-cute Byron, she learns about the many other young SleepWakers, who are divided into like-minded subgroups, with one that threatens to ruin the nighttime freedom for the rest. The rosy moral lesson: Bullies have stories, too, and, once seen and forgiven, they will turn into unlikely friends. While this can be true, the book’s bullies—one at school, one at nighttime, and several others—come across as so mean that something more than apologetic words are really needed as an apology. Aside from Byron’s light brown skin and an Indian tertiary character, the remaining cast is presumed white. The fantastical plot tries to keep one foot planted in realism, but hokey dialogue and the flippant treatment of the fundamentally unsettling premise throw it off balance.

Just too bizarre. (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-00761-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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