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Poor execution distracts from the story’s important themes of female empowerment, tolerance, and inclusion.

Princess Marabel of Magikos goes on a quest to save her twin brother, Marco.

For their 13th birthday, royal twins Princess Marabel and Prince Marco (both white) attend a grand celebration to celebrate Marco, the Chosen One as predicted by the kingdom’s Book of Fate. Marabel loves her brother but feels second-rate, once again. When their aunt Mab (banished by the king to the Desolate Barrens, a separated part of Magikos) crashes the party and kidnaps Marco, Marabel, along with her white maid-cum–best friend, Ellie, and a talking unicorn named Floriano (whose plot purpose seems to be opening doors with his magical horn), nervously travels to the Desolate Barrens—a land populated by “Evils”—to rescue him. The three trudge through many derivative adventures borrowed from fairy tales and popular culture as they make their way to Mab’s castle. The story considers worthy, timely themes in Marabel’s realization that the creatures labeled “Evils” are only different, not wicked, and in her growing self-empowerment as she faces down danger and fear. These are unfortunately diluted by the story’s slack execution. Marabel indulges in the plot contrivance of self-doubting inner questioning on a tiresomely frequent basis, and there are several plot inconsistences. Many jokes based on popular/internet culture (“WizFi,” “Angry Pheonixes,” and “elfie,” for instance) are not well-integrated and feel gratuitous.

Poor execution distracts from the story’s important themes of female empowerment, tolerance, and inclusion. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-43399-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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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

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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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