Unexpected, suspenseful, and heartwarming.

SKANDAR AND THE UNICORN THIEF

From the Skandar series , Vol. 1

Unassuming Skandar Smith yearns to be bonded with a unicorn and must grow into the role he’ll play in an epic battle with evil.

Skandar’s dad has told him that his deceased mum promised him a unicorn. Skandar, eager to escape bullies at school and his grieving father at home, hopes this promise will come true: Now 13, he is eligible to take the Hatchery exam, the first step in determining who will be paired with a unicorn. But he’s inexplicably denied entry to the test. The intrigue deepens when a woman shows up to deliver him covertly to the Hatchery so he can try to open the door on the Island behind which are the unicorn eggs. She warns Skandar about the Weaver, an evil entity. Tension mounts as Skandar tries to determine the Weaver’s plan; he’s disconcerted when the first children who see his unicorn hatchling, Scoundrel, spot the mark of the forbidden, deadly spirit element—which is wielded by the Weaver. In fact, none of the unicorns in this tale are for the fainthearted. Even bonded, somewhat controlled unicorns are bloodthirsty. Wild, unbonded unicorns are immortal in death—murderous, rotting, and forever dying. It is these terrifying details, plus a terrible betrayal, that keep readers on knife’s edge even as Skandar’s bond with his unicorn deepens and his friendship with other riders solidifies—with them, Skandar brings about change. Skandar reads as White; the supporting cast includes diverse skin tones.

Unexpected, suspenseful, and heartwarming. (maps) (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66591-273-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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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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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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