THE GIANT RAT OF SUMATRA

OR, PIRATES GALORE

Edmund Amos Peters, nearly 13, is the cabin boy on the vessel known as the Giant Rat of Sumatra (named for its memorable figurehead) and the narrator of this delightfully crisp, compact tale of adventure and fortune. He’s known as Shipwreck because he was plucked from the remains of one by the pirate who likes to call himself Captain Gallows. Shipwreck accompanies the captain to shore in San Diego, where the pirate’s plans to become a gentleman and to find his childhood sweetheart are challenged by bandits and the threat of war. These obstacles are easily but satisfyingly overcome, and Fleischman’s prose snaps and crackles with good humor as the amiable buccaneer moves briskly from sea to the port of San Diego and on to his new venture as landowner of a large estate by the sea. The setting in 1846, just before Americans captured San Diego for the U.S., offers an intriguing glimpse of California as its own land. Some threads remain to be gathered at the end, but if this is, as Fleischman says, the end of his California trilogy, they beg another story. Spirited and entertaining. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-074238-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE REVOLTING REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE ROBO-BOXERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 10

Zipping back and forth in time atop outsized robo–bell bottoms, mad inventor Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) legs his way to center stage in this slightly less-labored continuation of episode 9.

The action commences after a rambling recap and a warning not to laugh or smile on pain of being forced to read Sarah Plain and Tall. Pilkey first sends his peevish protagonist back a short while to save the Earth (destroyed in the previous episode), then on to various prehistoric eras in pursuit of George, Harold and the Captain. It’s all pretty much an excuse for many butt jokes, dashes of off-color humor (“Tippy pressed the button on his Freezy-Beam 4000, causing it to rise from the depths of his Robo-Pants”), a lengthy wordless comic and two tussles in “Flip-o-rama.” Still, the chase kicks off an ice age, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Big Bang (here the Big “Ka-Bloosh!”). It ends with a harrowing glimpse of what George and Harold would become if they decided to go straight. The author also chucks in a poopy-doo-doo song with musical notation (credited to Albert P. Einstein) and plenty of ink-and-wash cartoon illustrations to crank up the ongoing frenzy.

Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-17536-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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THE CITY OF EMBER

This promising debut is set in a dying underground city. Ember, which was founded and stocked with supplies centuries ago by “The Builders,” is now desperately short of food, clothes, and electricity to keep the town illuminated. Lina and Doon find long-hidden, undecipherable instructions that send them on a perilous mission to find what they believe must exist: an exit door from their disintegrating town. In the process, they uncover secret governmental corruption and a route to the world above. Well-paced, this contains a satisfying mystery, a breathtaking escape over rooftops in darkness, a harrowing journey into the unknown and cryptic messages for readers to decipher. The setting is well-realized with the constraints of life in the city intriguingly detailed. The likable protagonists are not only courageous but also believably flawed by human pride, their weaknesses often complementing each other in interesting ways. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers clamoring for the next installment. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-82273-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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