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MYSTERY OF THE KHAR CHULUU

Charismatic, superpowered adolescents electrify a riveting tale.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Two kids with supernatural abilities fight to keep a potent stone away from an evil parent in this middle-grade adventure.

Ten-year-old Chul Sun is extraordinary, able to generate electromagnetic pulses and run at incredible speeds. His abusive, adoptive father in America, Thorium Dare, exploits the boy’s powers and forces him to steal precious items. But when Chul grabs a black onyx stone (a khar chuluu), he fears what Dare will do with its power—so he flees with the object. Chul quickly earns an unexpected ally in Anita Aminou, a tween who comes from a family with astonishing abilities. She can “plinch,” a gift that teleports the two youngsters to the Aminous’ camouflaged home in the Sahara. Though they’re safe there, Anita wants to defeat Dare on her own, mostly to show her judgmental ancestors that she’s worthy. The skilled girl manages to conjure and magically bind the Djinn of All Deserts (who’s also the book’s rather charming narrator). It’s a potentially dangerous move, but the Djinn can easily find Dare. Anita travels via magic carpet to Algiers to face the diabolical man and his bumbling goons, but Chul isn’t far behind. Readers of all ages will relish Whitlow’s smart tale starring two young, captivating protagonists. The descriptive prose is often lyrical, as when the Djinn hunts for someone: “I searched kitchens, sleeping chambers, hallways, ball rooms, and rooftop gardens. I searched barrios, tenements, glitzy boulevards, and the outskirts of ten thousand cities.” The brisk narrative churns out a few surprises, especially involving the khar chuluu, which, despite its unique power, Dare insists is a “key.” The characters’ arcs are engaging, from Chul and Anita’s developing friendship to the boy’s learning about his biological parents. But the villains, while entertaining, are a meager threat since Anita has the Djinn at her beck and call. Still, this gripping tale displays real series potential.

Charismatic, superpowered adolescents electrify a riveting tale.

Pub Date: May 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73490-980-7

Page Count: 196

Publisher: James Perry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

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

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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