Much rushing about from here to there in this penultimate brick, but it’s basically a smooth ride to the closer.

DEATH WEAVERS

From the Five Kingdoms series , Vol. 4

Cole’s ongoing quest to rescue friends and find four lost princesses in the dreamlike Outskirts takes him to a land where the border between life and death is permeable.

Gaining and losing various allies and princesses as he goes, Cole journeys through both Necronum, populated by the living and also spectral “echoes,” and the “echolands,” a sort of borderland halfway house for the dead, on the way to a face-off with the demonic shapecrafter Nazeem. As if the cast wouldn’t already fill a bus, Mull trots in even more characters—including some from his Beyonders series—as he pushes his young hero into a drawn-out series of chases and races both afoot and atop a mysterious magical horse. The author spins a big, fluent, not entirely earnest yarn, but he seems to be stuck on certain plot devices. Infodumps (along with side topics like the meaning of life), for instance, are repeatedly delivered through extended question-and-answer sessions that read like magazine interviews, and so often does Cole hear some variation on “I don’t know, but I can tell you who might,” that even he finally slaps his forehead: “No offense, but do you know how many times I’ve heard this?” But, by the end Nazeem has been temporarily stymied, Cole has acquired shapecrafting powers of his own, and the ducks are queuing for the upcoming climax.

Much rushing about from here to there in this penultimate brick, but it’s basically a smooth ride to the closer. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9709-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE REVOLTING REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE ROBO-BOXERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 10

Zipping back and forth in time atop outsized robo–bell bottoms, mad inventor Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) legs his way to center stage in this slightly less-labored continuation of episode 9.

The action commences after a rambling recap and a warning not to laugh or smile on pain of being forced to read Sarah Plain and Tall. Pilkey first sends his peevish protagonist back a short while to save the Earth (destroyed in the previous episode), then on to various prehistoric eras in pursuit of George, Harold and the Captain. It’s all pretty much an excuse for many butt jokes, dashes of off-color humor (“Tippy pressed the button on his Freezy-Beam 4000, causing it to rise from the depths of his Robo-Pants”), a lengthy wordless comic and two tussles in “Flip-o-rama.” Still, the chase kicks off an ice age, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Big Bang (here the Big “Ka-Bloosh!”). It ends with a harrowing glimpse of what George and Harold would become if they decided to go straight. The author also chucks in a poopy-doo-doo song with musical notation (credited to Albert P. Einstein) and plenty of ink-and-wash cartoon illustrations to crank up the ongoing frenzy.

Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-17536-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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