Riordan is again fighting for a revolution in middle-grade fiction with his funny, whiplash-fast writing and deep moral...

THE SHIP OF THE DEAD

From the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series , Vol. 3

Riordan’s third installment of Magnus Chase’s adventures careens through the Nine Worlds in a boat called the Big Banana.

The plot almost passes as a typical Riordan adventure: main quest, side quests, happy ending, new disaster looming in the future. But here, one quest confronts the evil lurking within wealthy white suburban men (well, elves). Genderfluid Alex creates a nonbinary clay warrior, drawing on her indigenous Mexican family history. Samirah’s Ramadan fast lends her focus and clarity. The villain is still Loki, but readers might see similarities to other morally corrupt leaders putting selfish interests ahead of marginalized people and their allies—with a silent, inscrutable wife at his side. No one is perfect; there’s a throwaway fat joke, and Riordan could work on refining the sign language deaf elf Hearthstone uses, which is called American Sign Language but in description is different enough to frustrate. But black, deaf, trans, Muslim, white, homeless, and formerly homeless readers will see characters like themselves cracking jokes and caring for one another, with identities that are crucial to success rather than a distraction or side issue. The climax, a deeply emotional testament to the power of community, could leave some in tears.

Riordan is again fighting for a revolution in middle-grade fiction with his funny, whiplash-fast writing and deep moral convictions. (Fantasy. 8-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4231-6093-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2017

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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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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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