Appealing young male protagonists, a touch of magic, respect for nature and human connection, and plenty of action.


From the Texas Boys Adventures series , Vol. 1

A Texas boy and his cousin face unexpected challenges when trying to protect fireflies in this middle-grade novel.

In Book 1 of the new Texas Boys Adventures series by Count, 12-year-old Davy, a budding entomologist, arrives for a summer visit at his grandfather’s farm, “the best insect observation site he knew.” At first, it seems that annoying younger cousin Anderson will spoil Davy’s plans, until the two discover a colony of endangered fireflies, which communicate by flashing in code, in the forest on the edge of Grandpa’s farm. Davy learns that a neighboring farmer’s pasture-clearing is decimating the fireflies’ habitat. He and Anderson decide to become “Firefly Warriors,” seeking ways to help the glowing insects. The author’s touch of the supernatural in the plot is deftly balanced with the boys’ lively, reality-based adventures and by strong messaging about insects and their vital place in the world’s ecology, under threat from pesticides and loss of habitat. “If the insects die, then everything that needs them for food dies too,” Davy says. (Davy’s knowledge about nature isn’t restricted to fireflies. His opportunities for sharing facts about insects and other wildlife arise naturally in conversation—and during a scary encounter with a rat snake.) Davy learns of a possible solution to the fireflies’ plight that would allow farmers to turn part of their land over to wildlife preservation, but before he can promote this idea, a raging fire breaks out, threatening farms and forest and sending the fireflies’ chances for survival plummeting. Davy and Anderson will use their strength and ingenuity to corral frightened cattle and help firefighters’ efforts to control the blaze, but will they be able to help the fireflies? Meanwhile, the successful, warm heart of the novel is found in the changing dynamic between Davy and Anderson and in subtle character-building messages about friendship, empathy, and courage in the face of fear. A handful of cleanly rendered, black-and-white line drawings illustrate the action; the back of the book includes numerous firefly facts.

Appealing young male protagonists, a touch of magic, respect for nature and human connection, and plenty of action.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9970883-2-8

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun


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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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


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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