Well-written, action-packed, with a timeless, timely theme


From the Luck Uglies series , Vol. 3

The plot deepens and expands in Book 3 of the middle-grade Luck Uglies series.

Plucky protagonist Rye O’Chanter, her little sister, Lottie, and their parents, Abby and Harmless, are hiding out in Beyond the Shale, the forest beyond the Village Drowning. The Fork-Tongue Charmers, evil splinter group of the Luck Uglies, want to kill Harmless, the High Chieftain of the Luck Uglies, so that Slinister, their leader, can claim leadership. Determined to settle this power struggle, which is destroying the Village Drowning and unbalancing the land around it, Harmless sends Rye into Village Drowning to call a Reckoning—a final deliberation among all members of the Luck Uglies to determine who will be High Chieftain. But this, as it turns out, is perilous. Durham paints a story of good vs. evil with gray rather than black and white. Harmless is not harmless and hints to Rye that he has done awful things. Slinister may not be as sinister as his reputation colors him. And in trying to save Village Drowning, Rye makes a decision that could destroy more than it saves. The plentiful action and well-conceived settings will keep readers turning the pages, although they may unintentionally keep the underlying theme of the destruction created by lust for power and its inevitable cost to innocents from being felt as keenly as it should be.

Well-written, action-packed, with a timeless, timely theme . (Fantasy. 8-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-227156-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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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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Will extragalactic rats eat the moon?

Can a cybernetic toenail clipper find a worthy purpose in the vast universe? Will the first feline astronaut ever get a slice of pizza? Read on. Reworked from the Live Cartoon series of homespun video shorts released on Instagram in 2020 but retaining that “we’re making this up as we go” quality, the episodic tale begins with the electrifying discovery that our moon is being nibbled away. Off blast one strong, silent, furry hero—“Meow”—and a stowaway robot to our nearest celestial neighbor to hook up with the imperious Queen of the Moon and head toward the dark side, past challenges from pirates on the Sea of Tranquility and a sphinx with a riddle (“It weighs a ton, but floats on air. / It’s bald but has a lot of hair.” The answer? “Meow”). They endure multiple close but frustratingly glancing encounters with pizza and finally deliver the malign, multiheaded Rat King and its toothy armies to a suitable fate. Cue the massive pizza party! Aside from one pirate captain and a general back on Earth, the human and humanoid cast in Harris’ loosely drawn cartoon panels, from the appropriately moon-faced queen on, is light skinned. Merch, music, and the original episodes are available on an associated website.

Epic lunacy. (Graphic science fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308408-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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