UPON SECRECY

“George Washington needed spies.” In a fictionalized narrative that goes steeply downhill from this promising opening line, Castrovilla reconstructs in mannered language (“He dared not pray that these words cease fire”) a true feat of Revolutionary War spy work: the transmission of vital intelligence about whether the British in New York knew about an arriving French fleet. Conveyed in stages by the Culper Spy Ring to General Washington, the message was written in transparent “sympathetic stain” by Quaker Robert Townsend and carried by messengers Austin Roe and Caleb Brewster—all historical figures. The painted pictures of these men and others—with, mostly, fixed expressions of anxiety—are stodgy but add bits of suspense, plus a sense of period. Citing years of research, the author adds 11 pages of backmatter—in which she neither quotes the original letter nor indicates whether or not it survives, devotes an entire page to “sympathetic stain” without mentioning its ingredients and closes with an adult-level bibliography. Young readers will find a clearer, more readable account of the Culper network in Thomas B. Allen’s George Washington, Spymaster (2004). (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59078-573-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Pilkey is still having entirely too much fun with this popular series, which continues to careen along with nary a whiff of...

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE WRATH OF THE WICKED WEDGIE WOMAN

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 5

Trying to salvage failing grades, George and Harold use their handy 3-D Hypno Ring on termagant teacher Ms. Ribble—and succeed only in creating a supervillain with a medusa-like ’do and a yen to conquer the world with wedgie power. 

Using a pair of robot sidekicks and plenty of spray starch, she even overcomes Captain Underpants. Is it curtains (or rather, wedgies) for all of us? Can the redoubtable fourth graders rescue the Waistband Warrior (a.k.a. Principal Krupp) and find a way to save the day? Well, duh. Not, of course, without an epic battle waged in low-budget Flip-O-Rama, plus no fewer than three homemade comics, including an “Origin of Captain Underpants” in which we learn that his home planet of Underpantyworld was destroyed by the . . . wait for it . . . “Starch Ship Enterprize.” As in the previous four episodes, neither the pace nor the funky humor (“Diapers and toilets and poop . . . oh my!”) lets up for a moment.  Pilkey is still having entirely too much fun with this popular series, which continues to careen along with nary a whiff of staleness. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-04999-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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