Even though—in the book’s one predictable touch—Rocco gives up being a liar and a criminal, he’s reliably entertaining till...



Italian immigrant and new New Yorker Rocco Zaccaro is not an unreliable narrator.

Any time Rocco tells a lie or betrays someone who trusts him, he tells readers in advance exactly what he’s going to do. In the very first chapter, he introduces himself as “Rocco Zaccaro, pickpocket, liar extraordinaire, and escaped convict, among other things.” The old-fashioned, picaresque chapter headings are wonderfully informative. The caption for Chapter 4 is: “Containing a grave and shocking event that may disturb some readers.” (The book is set in the late 1880s, and the headings feel both historical and meta.) The chapter includes a scary scene involving a knife, but the book has almost no big surprise plot twists. Rocco announces them all ahead of time. He sums up most of the story in his self-introduction. And yet, Hopkinson’s writing is so inventive that it’s almost impossible to guess what will happen next. Every scene contains a little surprise. Rocco may be a liar and a criminal, but, like the best unreliable narrators from other books, he’s endlessly funny and clever.

Even though—in the book’s one predictable touch—Rocco gives up being a liar and a criminal, he’s reliably entertaining till the end of the story. (map, historical notes, bibliography, pickpocket’s glossary) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75499-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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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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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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