A second story that lacks steam.

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TWILIGHT OF THE ELVES

From the Adventurers Guild series , Vol. 2

Now that the Adventurers Guild has saved Freestone in an epic battle in the series’ eponymous first installment (2017), new dangers lurk that are now not necessarily beyond the city’s walls.

Told in chapters of alternating third-person narration through the perspectives of the book’s heroes, Zed and Brock, the new adventure begins when the guild accepts the charge of elf queen Me’Shala to save the city of Llethanyl. After accidentally tapping into his elven powers in the previous book, Zed, now a full member of the Adventurers Guild, must come to terms with his half-elven, half-human origins as he feels increasing kinship with the elf refugees sheltering in Freestone. Meanwhile, his all-human best friend, Brock, is being blackmailed by the nefarious Lady Gray of the Merchants Guild to act as a spy within the Adventurers Guild. As the guild sets off on their mission to save Llethanyl, hidden dangers among them are revealed followed by the discovery of a lost city of druids. This second installment lacks the sprightly pacing, humor, and energy of the first, offering a slow build laced with lots of heavy dialogue and revelatory moments that don’t serve the overall story. The kid characters feel more like adults than the free-spirited youth introduced in the last installment. Too much backstory and too many characters who lack succinct focus make the story hard to follow at times. Zed has brown skin, and Brock presents white.

A second story that lacks steam. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-8860-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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