From the Disney Chills series , Vol. 1

Coasting on a popular villain isn’t enough to keep the watered-down story afloat.

A new middle-grade series featuring Disney stories’ scary elements opens with The Little Mermaid’s Ursula.

Shelly Anderson has struggled to make friends ever since she changed schools following her parents’ breakup. Even though she’s the eco-conscious daughter of an aquarium owner, the spineless Shelly allows her new, popular-clique friends to peer-pressure her into tossing a disposable coffee cup into the ocean. After littering, she’s stalked by sea witch Ursula, who offers a deal: She’ll make Shelly a fast swimmer in exchange for a favor to be named later. Of course, there’s something fishy with the deal: Shelly starts slowly transforming into a fish (first gills, then webbing between her digits and scales); to reverse it, she must retrieve the old trident that’s in the aquarium for Ursula. The narrative’s insistence on telling over showing causes it to fail to capture any visceral sensory details needed for the body-horror storyline to succeed. Ironically, the most successful horror moment is the least logically connected to the magic at play (her brother’s dead goldfish appears in the school toilet to warn her off from the deal). The half-baked environmental storyline features after-school–special levels of heavy-handedness. The ending’s unhappy for Shelly, though there’s a touch of humor and her safety’s implied. Most characters lack descriptions; Shelly has olive skin, and one significant secondary character is coded Latinx.

Coasting on a popular villain isn’t enough to keep the watered-down story afloat. (Horror/fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-04825-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020


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


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

Dizzyingly silly.

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

Close Quickview