For fans of the author’s Claude series who are looking for a longer chapter book.


From the Mr. Penguin series , Vol. 1

Aspiring adventurer Mr. Penguin solves his first mystery with the help of an earnest crew in this quirky, sharply illustrated chapter book.

When Mr. Penguin receives a frantic phone call from Bouddica Bones, owner of the Museum of Extraordinary Objects, the clumsy, bow tie–clad novice adventurer ejects himself from his office trash bin and dashes to the museum with his companion spider, Colin. The mission is standard expedition fare: find treasure that’s been buried in the museum in order to save the dilapidated institution. From this early moment, Smith crafts a Rube Goldberg–style plot, with chapters dangling readers over the next twist in the magical, cavernous museum basement. Bouddica and her brother, Montague, are described comically and drawn as white, and the only character of color, Edith, lives “in the park” with a pigeon named Gordon. While Edith is instrumental in saving the day and is rewarded by Bouddica, Mr. Penguin and Colin are the ones who receive formal praise in the city newspaper, reinforcing dominant race, gender, and class norms. Also irritating is the fact that Antarctica-native Mr. Penguin lives in an igloo. A plot twist and strategic pops of orange among detailed drawings are sure to pull readers along, as chapters are broken up by images and color.

For fans of the author’s Claude series who are looking for a longer chapter book. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68263-120-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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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Dizzyingly silly.


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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