Only fans of the first need try; likely even some of them will be disappointed.

A WORLD OF TROUBLE

From the Merits of Mischief series , Vol. 2

It’s a new semester at Kilter Academy. Trouble’s brewing; it’s everyone’s favorite subject.

Last semester, Seamus Hinkle found that he didn’t inadvertently kill Miss Parsippany, the substitute teacher at his old school, much to his relief. Now he wants to leave Kilter, which parents think is a reform school (but which is actually a school for Troublemakers), and return to regular school…until he discovers something disturbing about his mother. He returns to Kilter and the rooms he shares with his three friends, but Elinor (niece of Annika Kilter, the academy’s enigmatic founder) isn’t returning. Through K-mail (Kilter’s answer to email), Seamus tries to find out why Elinor’s absent and seeks advice on dealing with parents from Miss Parsippany. Meanwhile, he gets a special assignment from Annika to spy on history teacher Mr. Tempest, who periodically goes missing. What he really wants to do is find out why Elinor’s so uncommunicative. Burns’ second volume in her Merits of Mischief series will be totally incomprehensible to those who haven’t recently read the first. Seamus’ exposition-heavy K-mail conversations interrupt the tale at every turn, and the characters don’t see any development. The constant barrage of Bond-like devices, many of which are ludicrous, simply draws attention to the tale’s attempts at cleverness rather than actually delivering it.

Only fans of the first need try; likely even some of them will be disappointed. (Adventure. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4032-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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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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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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