Rattles along to thrill-a-minute tracks, but the series shows signs of losing steam.

CHARLIE THORNE AND THE CURSE OF CLEOPATRA

From the Charlie Thorne series , Vol. 3

How better to celebrate a 13th birthday than by following clues to a priceless treasure hidden for more than 2,000 years while being hotly pursued by armed thugs and Black Ops units?

Still by far the smartest person in every room she enters, Charlie continues her quest to track down the world’s greatest treasures while keeping herself and the fantastically dangerous formula only she knows out of the hands of an increasing number of intelligence agencies and other bad actors. A bit of ancient steganography sends her, with her half brother, Dante, and his partner, Milana, both CIA agents, from Giza to the Acropolis, the Roman Forum and then the Metropolitan Museum of Art—for, at each stop, a new clue or artifact paired to heavy infodumps about the locale’s historical and archaeological highlights. Not to mention one or more ambushes with, occasionally, gunfire, one or more high-speed chases (including one in a chariot, which is at least different), and chances for Charlie’s overachieving sidekicks each to take out entire squads of gunmen sent by the Israeli Mossad, the Egyptian Mukhabarat, an Egyptian billionaire, and even the CIA. The prize turns out to be worth the kerfuffle, but even though this is only the third episode, the plot is all manufactured action strung together with mechanical predictability. The characterizations are equally facile. Multiracial Charlie is described as having globally diverse racial origins.

Rattles along to thrill-a-minute tracks, but the series shows signs of losing steam. (Action adventure. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9934-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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