If the laughs don’t keep the pages turning, the action will.

FINN AND THE INTERGALACTIC LUNCHBOX

From the Finniverse series , Vol. 1

Can the fate of the universe depend on a unicorn lunchbox?

Eleven-year-old Finn Foley, his mother, and his younger sister, Kate, moved to Cold Spring near the Hudson River when his dad walked out. He hates it. Every day since school started, bully Lincoln Sidana has made his life miserable. Their most recent dust-up lands them in the principal’s office, locked in until they become friends. Totally unlikely…but then so is a wormhole opening in Kate’s lunchbox, brought by Finn to school by mistake. The wormhole sucks Finn in and spits out a high-tech robot named Highbeam. Finn is quickly sucked back to Earth, but a strange piece of alien technology has grafted itself onto his chest—and every time he touches the lunchbox, he zips through space. Highbeam’s from a part of the universe where a race called the Plague—they look like giant locusts—has conquered and laid waste to countless civilizations. The Plague wants the wormhole generator, and now they know about Earth. Can Finn and friends defeat an intergalactic scourge? Buckley kicks off his new SF/adventure series with this high-energy, slightly sarcastic opener. Realistic kids, wild aliens, and unicorns sure to surprise readers add to the fun. Finn presents white, but the supporting cast is multiethnic, mostly cued by naming convention (Lincoln’s implied South Asian). The whizz-bang, globe-threatening finish has closure but sets up Book 2 nicely.

If the laughs don’t keep the pages turning, the action will. (Science fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-64687-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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