A scary adventure mixed with shadows and suspense.

THE SHADOW CITY

From the Five Elements series , Vol. 2

Gabe, Lily, Brett, and Kaz are four friends bonded by the elemental powers—fire, air, water, and earth, respectively—gained from a secret friendship ritual performed in series opener The Emerald Tablet (2016).

After having survived an attack on the island of Alcatraz, the four friends have successfully stayed hidden and kept the Emerald Tablet from the evil cult that’s after it, the Eternal Dawn. Their annoying tag-along, Jackson, aka Ghost Boy, a time traveler trapped in the present, becomes a new ally, offering his power of a fifth element, magick. The diverse group of kids (Lily and Brett are Latino, Kaz is Asian-American, and Gabe and Jackson are white) attempt to find the secrets that will destroy Arcadia, or the Shadow World, a dark alternative reality that exists alongside San Francisco. As they use their powers to fight off large, winged batlike creatures and the oozing, flying, tentacled creatures of Arcadia, they also search for clues that will lead them to Gabe’s missing uncle Steve and mother, whom they believe to be trapped in Arcadia. When one of their own shows signs of treachery, what lies behind the betrayal is revealed by the evil leader of the cult, Jonathan Thorne. This sequel is a bit darker than its predecessor, as Jolley adds such icky details as blood cocoons, along with an ending that is reminiscent of Stranger Things, an unsettling cliffhanger readers might want not to encounter just before bedtime.

A scary adventure mixed with shadows and suspense. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-241167-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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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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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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