A satisfying stand-alone sequel; new readers and old friends will be hoping for further adventures.

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TO CATCH A CHEAT

From the Jackson Greene series , Vol. 2

A doctored video showing Jackson Greene and his eighth-grade friends sneaking in to clog Maplewood Middle School toilets pulls the former prankster and his crew into an elaborate set of strategies to catch the perpetrator and foil a couple of would-be cheaters in the process.

When two classmates use the video to enlist them in their quest to obtain the answers to their history teacher’s dreaded final exam, Jackson and best friend Charlie de la Cruz have to resolve simmering differences and cooperate to puzzle out the point of the scheme and nail the schemer. At the same time, Jackson is trying to work up the courage (and set an elaborate stage) to kiss Charlie’s twin sister, Gaby, now formally Jackson’s girlfriend. An intricate plot, fast-paced action, short chapters, and changing perspectives characterize this smartly structured tale, a follow-up to Johnson’s original caper, The Great Greene Heist (2014). The author smoothly introduces the main characters and back story. With plentiful references to Star Wars and other movies, cartoons, and esoteric trivia (helpfully explained in the backmatter), as well as cutting-edge technology, he also offers a convincing portrayal of a likable and highly diverse group of geeky middle school students, eager to outwit the bad guys, authority, and sometimes one another.

A satisfying stand-alone sequel; new readers and old friends will be hoping for further adventures. (Fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-72239-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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