A fun, positive book with plenty of heart.

THE GENIUS EXPERIMENT

From the Max Einstein series , Vol. 1

A homeless genius orphan is recruited by one organization and hunted by another.

Twelve-year-old orphan Max Einstein never knew her parents, is obsessed with Albert Einstein, lives in a squat above some Central Park stables alongside other good-natured down-on-their-luck types, and attends NYU using fabricated records. Her cozy existence is shattered when the powerful Dr. Zimm and the mysterious Corp target her. Luckily, she’s swept off to Israel, where she meets a group of highly diverse, multicultural fellow child prodigies, the other “contestants” at the Change Makers Institute. (Max is white.) The CMI’s testing them to find a visionary genius prodigy to lead world-improving projects, but Max has more interest in their aims than their tests. (While the book celebrates curiosity and learning, it also repeatedly rebukes standardized tests in favor of creativity and daydreams.) Max takes advantage of a chance to make friends her own age, while the Corp—with an alluded connection to Max’s past—closes in on her. Once a winner’s selected and a team formed, it’s off to the Congo on a mission to bring solar power to a village in hopes of encouraging African investors in industries other than mining (which uses child laborers). Max’s morality, love for humanity, and free spirit make a refreshing counter to the familiar computerlike, elitist genius archetype; evasion scenes bring thrills; problem-solving provides delightful role-modeling. The ending promises a sequel.

A fun, positive book with plenty of heart. (Thriller. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-52396-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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