Implausible but engagingly suspenseful—and not, tantalizingly, actually impossible.

The intrepid middle schoolers who took a case to the U.S. Supreme Court in Class Action (2018) aim higher.

Again challenging credibility but delivering a bracing lesson in motivational civics, Frank unleashes his quartet of seventh grade crusaders—with new allies and legal coaching from a nonagenarian neighbor—on the climate crisis. Motivated by frightening signs of climate change and incidents of heedless pollution, 12-year-old Sam Warren and his friends determine that the quickest way to short-circuit impending catastrophe would be a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to a planet free from “pollution and unnatural warming.” All they have to do is get a proposal through Congress and then have it ratified by three-quarters of the states. The first turns out to be relatively easy…but the second becomes a nail-biting campaign against a negotiated deadline that tests the ingenuity of the young eco-warriors and finally forces them into a desperate, spectacular, last tick public protest. Along with a reference to the Juliana v. United States climate suit and other real-life examples of youth activism, Frank slips actual figures into the cast, some thinly disguised (West Virginia Gov. Jim Law, a congressperson whose initials happen to be AOC) and others not (like the indomitable Greta Thunberg), and rounds off the buoyant close with an annotated list of constitutional amendments—all 28 of them. Names and other cues point to a racially diverse central cast.

Implausible but engagingly suspenseful—and not, tantalizingly, actually impossible. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-358-56617-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Clarion/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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

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 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012


A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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