Fans of Horvath’s Newbery Honor book, Everything on a Waffle (2001), will be disappointed; this one isn’t nearly as good....

THE NIGHT GARDEN

A remote Canadian farm contains a magic garden.

It’s 1945, and 12-year-old Franny lives with her adoptive parents, Sina and Old Tom, on a lovely rambling farm. World War II hasn’t affected them much until Sina agrees to take charge of three siblings, Winifred, Wilfred, and Zebediah, while their mother goes up to the nearby air base to prevent their father, Fixing Bob, who works as a mechanic for a secret type of plane, the Argot, from doing “something stupid.” Sina sees a UFO, Zebediah receives mysterious letters, and when Fixing Bob steals the Argot, only the wish-granting abilities of the night garden can save him. If the night garden feels like deus ex machina in summary it does even more so in reality, as it isn’t referenced in any way until Page 39, and its magic isn’t mentioned until Page 144. Franny’s first-person narration is wry and intelligent, infused with Horvath’s trademark humor, and the ending of the book is sweetly meaningful, but the exposition takes so long, and the plot shoots off in so many unexplained directions, that many readers won’t make it that far. Characters are white by default.

Fans of Horvath’s Newbery Honor book, Everything on a Waffle (2001), will be disappointed; this one isn’t nearly as good. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-30452-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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