The balance between romance and action misses the mark slightly, but ultimately, readers will be glad they strapped on their...

SPY SKI SCHOOL

From the Spy School series , Vol. 4

Eleven months and several life-threatening adventures into his spy training, 13-year-old Benjamin Ripley is being activated as a primary agent on his first official mission.

Ben, his not-so-secret crush, Erica Hale, and a host of their fellow classmates from the CIA’s Academy of Espionage are being sent to Vail, Colorado, over winter break to gather intel on Leo Shang, a Chinese billionaire businessman and potential nefarious mastermind with his sights set on the United States. To do this, Ben must befriend Shang’s daughter, Jessica, at ski school, which seems easy enough until his handsome best friend from home turns up unexpectedly and inadvertently threatens to ruin the entire plan and blow Ben’s cover. Fans of the series will enjoy spending time with Ben, Erica, and a host of secondary characters that are finally given a chance to shine, most notably Ben’s friend Mike. With the exception of Jessica Shang and presumably Ben’s classmate Jawaharlal O’Shea, it appears to be a mostly white bunch, but they certainly do add to the fun. As this funny and familiar entry opts to focus on the burgeoning love triangles, the series’ signature fast-paced action is saved predominately for the last quarter of the novel.

The balance between romance and action misses the mark slightly, but ultimately, readers will be glad they strapped on their boots and went along for the ride. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4562-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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THE FIRST CAT IN SPACE ATE PIZZA

Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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