Wild exaggeration sure to please action-loving middle-grade readers.

SAMANTHA SPINNER AND THE SUPER-SECRET PLANS

Pursued by an outlaw band of sewer-dwelling “ninjas,” 11-year-old Samantha Spinner searches around the world for her missing uncle.

When Uncle Paul vanished from their Seattle home, he left outlandish presents: $2.4 billion for Samantha’s shopaholic older sister; the New York Yankees and their stadium for her imprudent younger brother; a jeweled collar for the dog; and, for Samantha, an old umbrella. Far from being a second-rate present, the umbrella conceals a map to a network of secret passages to places all over the world. A treasure, for sure, but will it lead Samantha to her lost uncle? Complicating things, the aforementioned outlaws from the sewer want their map back. Will they succeed? This series opener offers a winning mix of fast-paced action, fascinating facts, bathroom humor, and hidden puzzles. The characters have distinct personality traits but no physical descriptions, pointing to a white default. Samantha, her brother, Nipper, and their pug, Dennis, journey to Paris, France; Florence, Italy; and Edfu, Egypt—Samantha searching for her uncle, Nipper looking for treasure, and Dennis seeking snacks. Journal entries describing famous places such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Temple of Horus as well as their secret entryways interrupt the action. Further entries on Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China suggest adventures to come. Puzzle clues are sprinkled throughout; explanations and answers are in the back.

Wild exaggeration sure to please action-loving middle-grade readers. (Adventure. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-2000-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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