The next best thing to actually attending a con.

CON QUEST!

Siblings compete in a scavenger hunt at a comics convention.

Twelve-year-old twins Cat and Alex Gallo have been attending GeekiCon their whole lives with their comic-creator parents. This time, they’re determined to win a scavenger hunt organized by the dreamboat star of the hit TV series Paranormal. Fan Cat hopes to spend time with the actor, and artist Alex aims for a TV crew mentorship. Their strictly conventional 14-year-old sister, Fi, has been charged with babysitting them, hoping to prove she’s responsible enough for a camping trip with the cool crowd. Chapters alternate among the three siblings as the twins escape Fi to compete in the challenge. Fi isn’t the only one after the twins—James M., a white, sexist con staffer who scorns “fangirls and fake geeks,” wants them kicked out for participating in the hunt, which has not been endorsed by GeekiCon. The book’s an absolute love letter to con culture, focusing on camaraderie and confidence. Instead of citing real-world pop culture, pseudonymous stand-ins (Whom, M.D.!) turn the text into a scavenger hunt of in-jokes for geeks. The actual scavenger items are challenging and entertaining, as is the resulting conflict between Alex and Cat, despite their strong relationship. The siblings are white, with a Slovakian-immigrant mother; Alex is autistic, developed with nuance and depth. Positive representation’s given to a Filipinx character and to an adorably age-appropriate girl-girl relationship.

The next best thing to actually attending a con. (Adventure. 8-14)

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30727-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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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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