A gleefully metafictional caper and middle-grade picaresque bound to appeal to discerning young readers.

THE WHIZ MOB AND THE GRENADINE KID

Charlie, the shy son of an American diplomat in France, discovers a thrilling, dangerous underworld whose young denizens prey on the unsuspecting elite of 1961 Marseille.

Watching Amir, a gifted young pickpocket, in action, the 12-year-old white boy is impressed and, after helping him avoid arrest, asks Amir to teach him his trade. With Amir’s support, Charlie is admitted to his gang, the multiracial Whiz Mob of Marseille: kids who hail from Lebanon, the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Africa. In their lair under a derelict bar, the mob plots elaborate heists, targeting the wealthy where they congregate. Neglected by his estranged parents (German heiress mother, remote Anglo dad), Charlie’s thrilled to belong. But the deeper he’s drawn in, the higher the stakes become, culminating in a perilous journey to the remote School of Seven Bells in Colombia. Meloy takes his time moving pieces on his elaborate chessboard, describing the vivid scenery, human and otherwise, and introducing characters whose dialogue is adorned with colorful pickpocket argot (glossary provided). Patient readers are rewarded as Charlie is pulled into the whiz mob and suspense mounts. Even then the omniscient narrator will interrupt with comments on authorial choices: Charlie refuses a glass of champagne, readers are told, to meet the expectations of librarians and booksellers. Ellis’ charming illustrations (finished art not seen) adeptly capture the playful tone and decidedly period setting.

A gleefully metafictional caper and middle-grade picaresque bound to appeal to discerning young readers. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-234245-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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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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