Fresh and satisfying for middle-grade readers.

THE BRIXEN WITCH

An enchanted coin, a plague of rats, an itinerant fiddler and the disappearance of the village children are familiar folklore elements that find their ways into this original adventure.

Although 12-year-old Rudi Bauer thinks he’s found a treasure, no good can come from taking something that belongs to the Brixen Witch. His sleep is plagued by nightmares, but when they stop there's no relief—the village is infested with rats. Setting her third-person narrative in a tiny, Germanic mountain community, DeKeyser makes a traditional fantasy world come to life with homey details and believable dialogue. The witch’s old-fashioned speech reveals her great age. Occasional small silhouettes effectively highlight important symbols in each chapter: grandmother's rocking chair, a mountain flower and then, more ominously, rats and more rats. Around the Pied Piper events, the author weaves a substantial story that includes both good and bad magic and the power and purpose of a medieval witch for a village. “Sounds like you're just a midwife, really. Or a philosopher. Not really a witch,” Rudi blurts out. But the witch really is a witch, even though much of her power has been stolen by her greedy servant; she’s necessary to her mountain and her village. As his Oma points out, young Rudi, the one child left behind after the children disappear and the one who precipitated the crisis, is the one to make things right.

Fresh and satisfying for middle-grade readers. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3328-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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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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