Too-clever details and cloying messages get in the way of this story.

A FLICKER OF COURAGE

From the True Tales of Triumph and Disaster series , Vol. 1

Four kids fight back against an evil tyrant in this fantasy geared for middle graders from a veteran YA author.

Anxious, lonely Henry lives with his parents next to the raucous, loving Dante family, and he’s long yearned to befriend the family’s oldest son, Apollo. However, it’s only after Apollo’s little brother Rocco is changed into a lizard by Vlad Luxor, their Horrible Ruler with Magic, that Henry gathers his nerve to band together with Apollo and Jo and Pirate Girl, two other kids, to try to find a way to break the spell. Playful names and vocabulary set a fantastical mood, and stylized, vintage-looking drawings and diagrams are peppered throughout. From the start, it’s clear that a familiar epic battle is to be fought between the decent young people and the sinister megalomaniac leader. Luxor is described as a science-denying, thick-fingered, image-obsessed oaf with an inability to spell—a setup that feels heavy-handed even with the abundance of quick-paced action that propels the novel along, which seems destined for a sequel. Most of the characters, including Henry, the Dantes, and Pirate Girl, are white, or at least are assumed to be by default. Jo and her family are South American.

Too-clever details and cloying messages get in the way of this story. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1305-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

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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