Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Akiko on the Planet Smoo

Akiko on the Plant Smoo
Mark Crilley
Random, 2001  162 pgs
Grades 3-5
Science Fiction/Humor

Its the end of the school year and most kids are looking forward to summer vacation.  Akiko has no plans and is comfortable with her predictable and stable life.  Then everything changes when a mysterious letter arrives telling Akiko to be prepared to be picked up at her seventeenth floor bedroom window.  True to the letter writer's word, a spaceship arrives and whisks Akiko away to the planet Smoo.  Once on Smoo, she is treated like royalty and brought to the King.  The King has mistakenly sent for her to rescue his kidnapped son.  With no time to spare to search for the intended Akiko, who is qualified in rescuing kidnapped princes, Akiko must accept the mission.  She is paired with an unlikely team of rescuers: a book-smart scholar, a bobbing head, a rough and tumble wild-man, and a robot.  Together the team sets out, battles pirates, is taken into custody, and then sold to compete in a gladiator-like event fighting space creatures in an arena for the entertainment of space criminals.  The new friends get out of one jam after another using ingenuity and luck, finally getting back on track to rescue the kidnapped prince.

Akiko on the Planet Smoo started as a comic book.  The book is a work of fiction, but feels like a comic as you are reading it.  The short chapters end with cliff-hangers and generous comic-like illustration are found throughout.  The action never stops, nor does the silly humor.  Although Akiko is a girl, she is very much a tom-boy, allowing the book to appeal to both boys and girls.  Readers of all sorts (comic lovers, science fiction fans, reluctant readers) will all flock to this book.  Crilley began writing the series while living in Japan.  The book has a distinct Japanese manga feel to it and Akiko, although American, is of Japanese heritage.  The situations are silly, the characters are one-dimensional, the plot is unlikely, but who cares?  Akiko on the Planet Smoo is a lot of fun and kids will love it.  The book ends with an intentional cliff-hanger leading readers to the sequel: Akiko in the Sprubly Islands.  It is my experience that once kids finish the first adventure, they can't wait for the second installment.  Will Akiko and her team of misfits rescue the kidnapped prince?  Keep reading to find out!

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