A demonic buddy-comedy with as much danger as heart—fiendishly fun.

THE LAST LIFE OF PRINCE ALASTOR

From the Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding series , Vol. 2

Following The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding (2017), Prosper and his evil body-sharing hitchhiker, Alastor, must team up to follow their respective sisters into the realm of the fiends.

As Alastor’s sister Pyra—formerly his favorite sibling and now his chief rival—has abducted Prosper’s twin, Prue, and absconded with her to the Downstairs, Prosper strikes a deal with Alastor for the latter’s aid in recovering Prue. Alastor’s excited to see home after centuries trapped in the human realm but finds much has changed, from landmarks to even the social hierarchy among fiends—and magic is subject to rationing in the face of a threat called the Void. Prosper must conceal his humanity and avoid Pyra’s hunters as he travels through this odd world, with its odder inhabitants—and the occasional familiar face or newfound ally. Interspersed with present-day action (alternating Prosper’s first-person perspective with Alastor’s third-) are flashbacks to Alastor’s history with the WASP-y Reddings, specifically Prosper’s ancestor Honor Redding, telling the story of Honor’s fall from a good, humble man who thinks of Alastor as a friend to the monster who traps Alastor and curses the Bellegraves (a descendent of whom is dark-skinned, biracial Nell, Prosper’s friend-turn-betrayer). The adventure through the well-realized, lovingly disgusting, monstrous world is a wild ride on its own, with one Hell of a climax. Its power increases through deft exploration of privilege, choice, and responsibility, themes that manifest in genuinely moving moments.

A demonic buddy-comedy with as much danger as heart—fiendishly fun. (Fantasy/horror. 9-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7818-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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