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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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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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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