This is espionage well worth uncovering.

SPY SCHOOL SECRET SERVICE

From the Spy School series , Vol. 5

Only a few months after accidently blowing up the principal’s office at the CIA Academy of Espionage, 13-year-old Benjamin Ripley is back with another explosive assignment, and the stakes couldn’t be any higher.

With reliable intel that the evil organization SPYDER is plotting an assassination attempt against the president of the United States, Ben is handpicked to go undercover as a friend of the president’s son to stop the attack before it happens. In keeping with Spy School adventures past, nothing ever goes quite as planned, and Ben and his agent-in-training classmates find themselves embroiled in a high-stakes and hilarious secret operation to save the leader of the free world. While Gibbs largely sticks to the formula that readers have come to know and love, the setting takes on added importance in this installment, keeping the story fresh and adding depth to the otherwise lighthearted spy romp. As it’s peppered with entertaining historical trivia, readers may even learn a thing or two as they follow Ben from one Washington, D.C., landmark to the next. While Ben is white and the rest of the cast lacks significant racial diversity, their individual quirks and humor will likely appeal to middle-grade readers. Strong female characters like Ben’s crush, superspy-in-training Erica Hale, add a gender balance and strengthen the story.

This is espionage well worth uncovering. (Thriller. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7782-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A tropical action-filled adventure with heart.

THE EXPLORER

A crash-landing in the Amazon leaves four children stranded in the deep jungle.

They are Fred, a tall, white English boy, biracial Brazilian siblings Lila and 5-year-old Max, and a pale, white English girl, Constantia. Together they search for shelter and forage for edible fruits and larva. When Fred stumbles upon an old map, they decide to follow it to the X. In their handmade raft the crew travels down the river, through murky and clear waters, until they rediscover a lost city. Among the ruins they meet a mysterious man. He refuses to give his name, but will he refuse to help them get home? Rundell breathes character into the Amazon rain forest. The sounds, smells, flora, and fauna are vivid and tangible in the mind. The children are not as colorful, unfortunately. Fred, Lila, and Con give voice to their fears at every step, from climbing trees to facing down wild animals. Max has brief moments of wisdom in between bouts of tears or unbridled joy. The unnamed explorer does add some vibrancy to the book and commands attention despite the lush backdrop. His commentary on the effects of European imperialism is commendable although brief.

A tropical action-filled adventure with heart. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1945-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

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THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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