For fans of the author’s Claude series who are looking for a longer chapter book.


From the Mr. Penguin series , Vol. 1

Aspiring adventurer Mr. Penguin solves his first mystery with the help of an earnest crew in this quirky, sharply illustrated chapter book.

When Mr. Penguin receives a frantic phone call from Bouddica Bones, owner of the Museum of Extraordinary Objects, the clumsy, bow tie–clad novice adventurer ejects himself from his office trash bin and dashes to the museum with his companion spider, Colin. The mission is standard expedition fare: find treasure that’s been buried in the museum in order to save the dilapidated institution. From this early moment, Smith crafts a Rube Goldberg–style plot, with chapters dangling readers over the next twist in the magical, cavernous museum basement. Bouddica and her brother, Montague, are described comically and drawn as white, and the only character of color, Edith, lives “in the park” with a pigeon named Gordon. While Edith is instrumental in saving the day and is rewarded by Bouddica, Mr. Penguin and Colin are the ones who receive formal praise in the city newspaper, reinforcing dominant race, gender, and class norms. Also irritating is the fact that Antarctica-native Mr. Penguin lives in an igloo. A plot twist and strategic pops of orange among detailed drawings are sure to pull readers along, as chapters are broken up by images and color.

For fans of the author’s Claude series who are looking for a longer chapter book. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68263-120-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


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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Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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