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From the FunJungle series , Vol. 3

Monkey business included, this adventure strikes a neat balance between shenanigans and gravitas to inspire young...

Middle schooler Teddy has an enduring love for animals, a healthy dose of intellect, and a way with high jinks.

Since Teddy, his primatologist mother, and wildlife photographer father moved into FunJungle Wild Animal Park two books ago in Belly Up (2010), the excitement hasn’t ceased. In the opening chapter of this third installment, a shot is fired at the park’s beloved, pregnant, and very endangered rhinoceros, Rhonda. Teddy is at the epicenter of the brouhaha involving stampeding pachyderm and a wily, escape-artist orangutan. Meanwhile, a candy store and an ice cream shop have been ransacked, and once again wannabe detective Marge’s favorite suspect is Teddy. Teddy is still trying to hide his crush on the bosses’ daughter, Summer, as together they work to solve the mystery of the would-be poacher without being misled by red herrings or eaten by crocodiles. As silly as this story is, its tense action serves to illustrate the very real threat to the rhino’s survival due to black-market sales that value the horns more highly, ounce for ounce, than gold. This whodunit explores the many sides of the complex exotic-animal issue while supplying ample wildlife trivia, such as the fact that elephants are the only animals with four knees.

Monkey business included, this adventure strikes a neat balance between shenanigans and gravitas to inspire young conservationists. (Mystery. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2333-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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

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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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