If readers are going to pick up and stick with the next book, it may need just a bit more soap opera in it.

GAME OF FLAMES

From the Voyagers series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Project Alpha (2015) is a soap opera in disguise—and more.

There’s never any doubt that readers have a science-fiction book in their hands. Robots are firing laser beams. Kids are flying to distant planets to find a new energy source. There’s a lot of talk about saving the Earth. But the characters have soap-opera names like Dash Conroy and Carly Diamond, and most of them are hiding dangerous secrets. Each time an evil twin or a long-lost relative shows up, readers can practically hear the dramatic organ chords. But just when the plot threatens to get too overheated, the book switches genres and turns into a sitcom. One of the characters tells an elaborate lie that leads to one ridiculous complication after another. The story ends in classic sitcom style, with earnest speeches about the value of honesty. The plot often risks becoming either melodramatic or extremely silly, but—oddly—that’s not its problem. The trouble with the plot is that there isn’t any. If it weren’t for that elaborate lie, the central conflict would have been resolved in a chapter or two. The characters would have flown to the planet, obtained a rare element, and gone on their ways. Large sections of the book are conversations about what’s going to happen in the next book in the series.

If readers are going to pick up and stick with the next book, it may need just a bit more soap opera in it. (Science fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38661-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

An enthralling fantasy adventure full of bravery, love, and humor.

THE MARVELLERS

A Black girl embarks on an unprecedented journey to tap deeper into her magic.

Ella Durand is an 11-year-old from New Orleans, where she lives with her conjure-politician father, notorious Conjuror mother, grandmother, and little sister, Winnie. Ella makes history as the first Conjuror to be accepted into the Arcanum Training Institute, where she can learn to become a Marveller. Ella is eager to discover her marvel and to find out more about a type of magic so different from what she has grown up with, but integrating into this new school turns out to be harder than she hoped. Fortunately, she makes new friends, Jason and Brigit, who help her better navigate life at the school. After Ella’s family becomes embroiled in controversy due to allegations of their connection to an infamous escaped criminal and her teacher and mentor, Masterji Thakur, goes missing, she needs her friends’ help to help set things right. Clayton does a wonderful job with skillful worldbuilding that is bolstered by vivid, detailed descriptions and smart, witty prose, and readers will be swept up in the magic. The novel celebrates the diverse peoples and customs that make up Ella’s world. Parallels between the world of the Marvellers and real-world history around discrimination, privilege, marginalization, and stereotyping are clear without being heavy-handed. A charming cast and captivating storylines make this a breath of fresh air.

An enthralling fantasy adventure full of bravery, love, and humor. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-17494-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more