PIP AND THE WOOD WITCH CURSE

From the A Spindlewood Tale series , Vol. 1

Children are an endangered species in Hangman’s Hollow, a town under siege from dark and malevolent forces in this first book of a planned trilogy.

Ten-year-old orphan Pip is sent to be a cabin boy on a pirate ship, but he escapes and finds himself in Hangman’s Hollow, a place where children can be caught and imprisoned by either the town guards or by the forest creatures, for various nefarious purposes. He is taken in and hidden by a kind and brave tavern keeper who is also hiding his own son. What follows is a confusing and illogical series of misadventures involving child catchers, wood witches, a live wooden toy soldier, malevolent crows and a host of other creatures. It’s dystopian and supernatural, with deliberate Dickensian elements that will likely fly over the heads of the intended audience. To succeed, fantasy needs a structure on which to build the magic, but that is entirely lacking here. None of the characters are fully formed, and there is no rhyme or reason to their actions. There’s “an almost happy ending,” but nothing is explained or resolved. Highly detailed black-and-white illustrations are appropriately dark and spooky. Several are placed in a series of panels similar to a graphic novel, which might be a better choice of format for this material.

Confusion reigns. (Fantasy.8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6548-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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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