Not much of a leap, plotwise, but it should hop off shelves where the series has spawned fans.

FROG FREAKOUT

From the S.W.I.T.C.H. series , Vol. 7

Midway through this 14-volume British series, mad scientist Petty Potts follows her favorite experimental subjects, twins Josh and Danny Phillips, to summer camp with a new body-transforming concoction.

At this point, the storyline is just treading water. Having contrived to lift her buddies’ confiscated video games from the mean camp counsellor’s lockbox, reckless Charlie inadvertently drops the box’s key into a pond. Fortunately, Petty Potts has just arrived on the scene with a spray bottle of AMPHISWITCH, (the last syllable is an acronym for “Serum Which Instigates Total Cellular Hijack”), and in no time, the three children have been changed into small frogs. To the twins, who have been repeatedly turned into bugs in previous episodes, it’s all routine, but Charlie delightedly leaps into her new identity. Thanks to a hungry heron, she nearly croaks too, but following a narrow escape and froggy horseplay, the key is recovered and the games returned in the nick of time. Moreover, the physical effects turn out to be temporary—more or less. Collins supplies plenty of line drawings featuring wide-eyed children and amphibians. Sparkes tucks in a little natural history (as a frog, Danny discovers that insects “[taste] good! Like Cheetos”) and closes with a reading list, along with a lead-in to future misadventures.

Not much of a leap, plotwise, but it should hop off shelves where the series has spawned fans. (Fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-2111-0

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Darby Creek

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.

THE PIRATE PIG

It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment.

CAT DAD, KING OF THE GOBLINS

A pair of sisters and a froggy sidekick go up against a horde of fungal jungle dwellers in this frantically paced Canadian import.

When Mom transforms Dad into a cat, 10-year-old Luey, her leggy green friend, Phil, and little sister Miri chase him through a closet door and down a jungle path into a maze of tunnels. They manage to rescue their errant parent from the maroon-colored, cat-worshiping goblins that had overrun the garden. (They are not the “mythological” sort, explains Wilson, but sentient mushrooms dressed in towels.) The three put most of their pursuers to flight by rubbing Dad’s fur the wrong way to turn him into a raving, furry maniac (the rest flee at the closet door, screaming “IT’S THE MOM CREATURE! RETREAT!!”). Captured in multiple, sometimes overly small panels of garishly colored cartoon art, the action—not to mention the internal logic—is sometimes hard to follow. Still, dragging along their timorous but canny buddy, the dark-skinned, big-haired sisters dash into danger with commendable vim, and readers will cheer when they come out triumphant on the other side.

This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment. (afterword) (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-927668-11-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Koyama Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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