Pizazz may feel like she’s unique in her problems, but on paper she’s a dime a dozen.

PIZAZZ

From the Pizazz series , Vol. 1

Being a superpowered 9 ½-year-old isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When you think superhero, you picture a costumed adventurer punching evildoers and saving the day. You picture a heroic grin and an endearing quip as our hero humbly suggests it’s just their duty, just before swooping off to avert some other far-off crisis. It sounds like it’d be great to be a superhero, but Pizazz knows better. This kid has had it up to here with dashing away from her friends and school whenever there’s a sign of trouble. She’s tired of saving the world while wearing an embarrassing, glittery cape. Hardest of all might be the constantly sunny attitude expected of her: Pizazz feels trapped by an image she never wanted in the first place. As Pizazz outlines her laundry list of complaints, readers may find their empathy curdling quickly. There are only so many smarmy wisecracks one can take without a balance of earnest chuckles or splashy art, and the book has neither. Flat characters and square authority figures dance to the narrative’s well-worn song. At its core, there’s little to set this novel apart from the many other “misunderstood middle grader with attitude” books that flood school book fairs. Pizazz and most of her family have paper-white skin; some secondary characters appear to be people of color. Book 2, Pizazz vs. the New Kid, publishes simultaneously.

Pizazz may feel like she’s unique in her problems, but on paper she’s a dime a dozen. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9243-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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