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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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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