An obvious—and bland—riff on the Magic Treehouse series.

STEALING THE SWORD

From the Time Jumpers series , Vol. 1

An odd item found in a flea-market suitcase sends two children back to days of yore in this series opener aimed at fledgling chapter-book readers.

The suitcase, plainly a MacGuffin, contains a number of seemingly random objects and a remote-control thingy—and as soon as bookish Chase picks up what he thinks is a doorknob with a dragon’s head, he and his camera-toting little sister, Ava, find themselves in a medieval slops closet overhearing a conversation between two knights about a plot against King Arthur. The “doorknob,” it turns out, is actually the hilt of Excalibur, and only finding some way to magically repair the sword can save the king from an assassin’s attack. Writing in present tense, Mass moves the plot along smartly to a climax featuring some brisk, if bloodless, swordplay (her Arthur is more into disarming his opponents than carving them up), then has Ava push a button on the remote to send the young siblings back home. The “time jumpers” billing is deceptive as, though Chase frets about changing the future, neither the narrative nor Vidal’s frequent grayscale illustrations make much effort to place the episode in a true historical setting. The author tucks in a fart joke early on but never follows it up and, in a clumsy effort to inject a bit of suspense, trots in a mysterious, surly villain with differently colored eyes who is after the suitcase. Characters are default white.

An obvious—and bland—riff on the Magic Treehouse series. (review questions) (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-21737-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.

THE PIRATE PIG

It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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