Clever wordplay, wonderful character banter, and stinky humor make this outing another giant success.



From the Hamster Princess series , Vol. 4

Hamster princess Harriet faces a big problem in this “Jack and the Beanstalk” retelling.

Harriet and her loyal quail steed, Mumfrey, have been cliff-diving—a magical ability gained in Of Mice and Magic (2016)—when they’re approached by a cloaked chipmunk peddling magic beans. Mumfrey loses patience during the pitch and eats one. The resulting flatulence prompts Harriet to camp outside the castle. A massive beanstalk towers above them by morning—Mumfrey had a nighttime bathroom break, and it appears that quail fertilizer’s potent. Harriet and Mumfrey follow harp music up the beanstalk and to a castle, where “harpster” Strings (front half hamster, back half harp, amazing biceps from strumming herself) has been enslaved by the giant. She wants freedom to start a metal band; no one will be surprised when Harriet volunteers as drummer. Harriet must save Strings, a nail-biting rescue that includes stealing—by way of chewing—one of the giant’s shoelaces, rank with years of giant toe sweat and funk. The cliff-diving comes in handy in the final confrontation with the giant, but the story’s real resolution comes from threatening to sue the chipmunk for the damage his unmarked bean caused. This is vintage Vernon, sly text punctuated by clean, comic-style illustrations that manage to make even goose (“Honk?”) and quail ("Qwerk qwerk qwerk, werk-qwerk, qwark") dialogue funny.

Clever wordplay, wonderful character banter, and stinky humor make this outing another giant success. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 7-12)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-18652-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face.


From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

Four misunderstood villains endeavor to turn over a new leaf…or a new rap sheet in Blabey's frenzied romp.

As readers open the first page of this early chapter book, Mr. Wolf is right there to greet them, bemoaning his reputation. "Just because I've got BIG POINTY TEETH and RAZOR-SHARP CLAWS and I occasionally like to dress up like an OLD LADY, that doesn't mean… / … I'm a BAD GUY." To prove this very fact, Mr. Wolf enlists three equally slandered friends into the Good Guys Club: Mr. Snake (aka the Chicken Swallower), Mr. Piranha (aka the Butt Biter), and Mr. Shark (aka Jaws). After some convincing from Mr. Wolf, the foursome sets off determined to un-smirch their names (and reluctantly curbing their appetites). Although these predators find that not everyone is ready to be at the receiving end of their helpful efforts, they use all their Bad Guy know-how to manage a few hilarious good deeds. Blabey has hit the proverbial nail on the head, kissed it full on the mouth, and handed it a stick of Acme dynamite. With illustrations that startle in their manic comedy and deadpan direct address and with a narrative that follows four endearingly sardonic characters trying to push past (sometimes successfully) their fear-causing natures, this book instantly joins the classic ranks of Captain Underpants and The Stinky Cheese Man.

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91240-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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