From the Texas Boys Adventures series , Vol. 1

Appealing young male protagonists, a touch of magic, respect for nature and human connection, and plenty of action.

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A Texas boy and his cousin face unexpected challenges when trying to protect fireflies in this middle-grade novel.

In Book 1 of the new Texas Boys Adventures series by Count, 12-year-old Davy, a budding entomologist, arrives for a summer visit at his grandfather’s farm, “the best insect observation site he knew.” At first, it seems that annoying younger cousin Anderson will spoil Davy’s plans, until the two discover a colony of endangered fireflies, which communicate by flashing in code, in the forest on the edge of Grandpa’s farm. Davy learns that a neighboring farmer’s pasture-clearing is decimating the fireflies’ habitat. He and Anderson decide to become “Firefly Warriors,” seeking ways to help the glowing insects. The author’s touch of the supernatural in the plot is deftly balanced with the boys’ lively, reality-based adventures and by strong messaging about insects and their vital place in the world’s ecology, under threat from pesticides and loss of habitat. “If the insects die, then everything that needs them for food dies too,” Davy says. (Davy’s knowledge about nature isn’t restricted to fireflies. His opportunities for sharing facts about insects and other wildlife arise naturally in conversation—and during a scary encounter with a rat snake.) Davy learns of a possible solution to the fireflies’ plight that would allow farmers to turn part of their land over to wildlife preservation, but before he can promote this idea, a raging fire breaks out, threatening farms and forest and sending the fireflies’ chances for survival plummeting. Davy and Anderson will use their strength and ingenuity to corral frightened cattle and help firefighters’ efforts to control the blaze, but will they be able to help the fireflies? Meanwhile, the successful, warm heart of the novel is found in the changing dynamic between Davy and Anderson and in subtle character-building messages about friendship, empathy, and courage in the face of fear. A handful of cleanly rendered, black-and-white line drawings illustrate the action; the back of the book includes numerous firefly facts.

Appealing young male protagonists, a touch of magic, respect for nature and human connection, and plenty of action.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9970883-2-8

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020


From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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

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