Routine even with the swordplay and flying excrement.



From the Danger Gang series , Vol. 1

When his adventure-loving parents disappear on an expedition to Borneo, an 11-year-old shut-in recruits a sidekick (actually “partner”) and sets out to the rescue.

A legend in his own mind, Ronald ostentatiously refers to himself as “Ronald Zupan” throughout. In his quest to find his missing parents (Argentine dad Francisco and white American mom Helen), the mixed-race lad sweeps up Carter, his defanged (but still prone to biting) pet cobra, a white British nanny/butler he insists on calling “Jeeves” (not his name), and fencing rival Julianne Sato, a “feisty” lass of Japanese descent, on the way to a crash-landing in the jungle. Encounters with poop-throwing orangutans and unsavory local residents ensue, along with diverse narrow squeaks aboveground and below, culminating in a brisk duel with a pirate captain on a slippery mountain of bat guano that brings the mission to a successful close. Most of these exploits, along with the corrective comments offered by “Jeeves” at each chapter’s end and the superfluous appearance of a ship and other props from a certain series of pirate movies produced by “swarthy” superstar Josh Brigand come off as labored efforts to liven up the flaccid plot by cramming in as many yuks as possible. The boastful narrator, the artifact looters who are his parents, and the rest of the stereotyped cast fall as flat as the jokes. Map and finished spot illustrations not seen.

Routine even with the swordplay and flying excrement. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61963-692-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


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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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...


A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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