Best for existing series fans.


From the Dragon Rider series , Vol. 3

This Dragon Rider novel, written in English rather than translated from German like previous entries, pits the Greenblooms and fabulous creatures against an evil acquaintance from Barnabas’ schooldays.

An ancient myth states if waterfowl form swirling, flowerlike images on four different bodies of water, the mythical Aurelia, bearing healing pods, will appear where the lines connecting these locations intersect. It seems this is now happening, and the Greenblooms are preparing by calling the magical earth, air, fire, and water creatures who will carry the four pods to their appropriate realms. However, if the Aurelia or her pods are met with violence, she will cause all the fabulous creatures on Earth to disappear. While the Greenblooms and their magical friends are preparing to welcome the Aurelia, evil Cadoc Eelstrom is preparing to steal one of the pods to make himself immortal. The execution of this basic good-versus-evil plot is incohesive and disjointed. While the narrative voice changes with each chapter, the progression of the plot, alas, does not. Readers, reminded for the umpteenth time that the Aurelia will make all fabulous creatures disappear if she is angered, may begin to feel frustrated. Plunked on top of the thin plot are snippets describing the properties of the many magical creatures the author introduces, but these many, undeniably imaginative embellishments cannot resurrect a story that doesn’t have depth and characters that lack nuance. Black-and-white illustrations add a whimsical touch. Most human characters read as White.

Best for existing series fans. (cast of characters) (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-21555-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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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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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.


The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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