Despite some good adventures, such as the fun of tossing buffalo chips and the thrill of climbing Laurel Hill, the...

VOICES FROM THE OREGON TRAIL

A series of illustrated fictional monologues introduces the history of the Oregon Trail.

It’s a good idea, and the beginning is great: Readers meet 13-year-old Carl Hawks, who is helping his father lead a wagon train from Independence, Mo., to Oregon City. Carl sets up the tale as he lists possible hardships along the trail and asks, “WHAT WILL HAPPEN THIS TIME?” In the next spread, Patience Mills bids a poignant farewell to her baby’s grave as her family joins the wagon train. Now the text makes its fatal mistake: Hereafter, there is a dizzying parade of new names and relationships until the end, when Carl reappears to summarize the journey’s calamities and declare the trip “not bad.” The single-page monologues are attractively and appropriately set in Caslon Antique against a faded, faux burlap background. Unfortunately, the generic pen-and-ink-plus-watercolor illustrations are reminiscent of 1960s TV Westerns. The folksy free verse, although more informative than the art, fails in its too-ambitious attempt to delineate 16 different characters.

Despite some good adventures, such as the fun of tossing buffalo chips and the thrill of climbing Laurel Hill, the combination of a one-voice-fits-all twang with too many names and characters is numbing rather than inspiring. (maps, historical notes, author’s note, further reading) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3775-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

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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With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.

RISE OF THE EARTH DRAGON

From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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