Action-packed and inspirational—another stunner.

THE END OF THE WORLD AND BEYOND

Twelve-year-old convicted felon Oliver is transported to the American Colonies to avoid the hangman’s noose, but he finds his situation as an enslaved felon there is nearly as deadly in this sequel to The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts (2017).

In London in the early 18th century, children and adults alike face harsh punishment for minor crimes. Rather than face death, many are offered a term of servitude in the New World. Those who can survive the trans-Atlantic crossing, with its cramped spaces, filthy conditions, and sparse rations, face harsh treatment at the hands of ruthless masters. In Maryland, Oliver is purchased by a cruel man who refuses him even basic necessities. Once on the plantation, Oliver meets Bara, an enslaved boy from Guinea, who teaches him to cultivate tobacco and how to avoid dying at the hands of their master. While freedom is always at the forefront of Oliver’s mind, he also longs to reunite with his sister, Charity, also sold into servitude. Told in appropriately 18th-century diction, Oliver’s picaresque is a harrowing page-turner that takes an unflinching look at what life was like for those living in servitude in the American Colonies. Oliver is quietly heroic but also realistic as he endures his fate. African Bara, though seen through white Oliver’s eyes, is given trope-defying agency, his intelligence and superior knowledge of the territory and customs putting him in the lead but never at Oliver’s service. Brief backmatter gives historical context to this sequel.

Action-packed and inspirational—another stunner. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61620-565-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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