Sometimes thrilling, often terrifying, thoroughly immersive.

An anonymous artist’s illustrated journal of an exploratory voyage deep into the Amazon basin.

Following on The Lost Book of Adventure (2019) and presented in the same facsimile format, complete with images of stains, smashed bugs, and small attached botanical specimens, this engrossing diary records a five-week trip upriver—retracing a route from an old hand-drawn map (included as a glued-on foldout) with certain parts tantalizingly rubbed out. What lies in the missing bits? Readers will be as avid to find out as the unnamed and ungendered—but almost certainly European—“Unknown Adventurer” is. Accompanied only by Bibi, a female biologist friend with (fortunately, it turns out) excellent rainforest survival skills, the inexperienced narrator spends much of the arduous trek complaining: “This place isn’t endangered. We are.” But after many encounters with flora and fauna often as dangerous as it is unfamiliar to the adventurer, what lies at journey’s end turns out to be something wonderful, even more precious than gold…but, oh, so vulnerable too. Hundreds of colored-pencil drawings, done largely in blues and greens, accompany text printed in a faux hand-lettered but easily legible type. Sometimes quick and impressionistic, sometimes representational, their subjects include tiny insect specimens, broad landscapes and forest understories, portrait sketches of Bibi (a resident, and possibly Native, Brazilian) and the few locals they meet, and even inventories of camping gear. Keen identifies specific creatures and locales in discreet footnotes, and as “editor” adds comments fore and aft.

Sometimes thrilling, often terrifying, thoroughly immersive. (Illustrated fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7112-5449-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021


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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