A funny and promising start to a new series.

HOME SWEET HOTEL

From the Welcome to Wonderland series , Vol. 1

A precocious middle schooler saves his family’s Florida motel.

P.T. Wilkie has never had any trouble living up to his namesake, Barnum. He loves to spin a tall tale and be the center of attention. Unfortunately this skill hasn’t brought any attention to his family’s motel, the Wonderland, which has been struggling to survive since his grandfather Walt opened it in the 1970s. When the bank demands full payment on a balloon loan, P.T. and his new friend, Gloria Ortega, have to come up with $100,000 by the end of the month or lose the Wonderland forever. The ensuing schemes and wheeling and dealing are a delight. P.T. is a hoot and a half, smart, determined, and dedicated to his family in a refreshing way. TV-reporter daughter Gloria, with her financial smarts, brushes up against the line of being a bit too much for readers to swallow, but Grabenstein infuses her with the right amount of spunk to be endearing. (From her last name and cover depiction as dark-skinned, readers are likely to infer that she is Latina.) With this pair supported by a cast of (mostly) fully realized characters and a lovingly rendered location, the narrative springs to life as a funny, madcap dash. Grabenstein avoids an episodic feel and threads in a mystery that blooms in the last act and that puts this particular read over the top.

A funny and promising start to a new series. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53602-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

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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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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