The Kid from Planet Z: Crash!
Louis Thomas, Illustrator
Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin, May, 2017 90 pgs
The Kid from Planet Z series #1
Our story begins when Zeke Zander's family's spaceship crashes into Earth. The ship has sustained extensive damage so Zeke, his parents, and their highly intelligent talking cat, Zeus, must try to blend into the planet's society. The first step is moving into an abandoned house where Zeke encounters his first terrifying spider. The next day Zeke is sent, against his wishes, to Earth school. He lowers his antennae, places a hat on his head to better blend, and bravely starts his first day. Despite not understanding Earthen culture and various comedic misunderstandings concerning the origins of "hot dogs" and the proper use of straws, Zeke survives day one. He returns to his family, hoping that repairs to the ship are moving along. Imagine his surprise when he is informed by Zeus that the ship was hauled off by the junk man. The family needs money to buy back the ship, but where to get it? The answer lies in an unexpected place discovered by Zeke in a chance encounter in the park with his new school friends. It is up to Zeus to sacrifice his ego and dignity to save the day and secure the ship. The second series entry Don't Sneeze! will be released simultaneously.
Nancy Krulik is a master at writing the transitional chapter book series. She has previously penned Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo, George Brown, Class Clown, and The Magic Bone, all of which have been popular at my library. With this series Krulik turns to the world of science fiction, adding her usual dose of humor and comedic situations to which children will relate. The plot is straightforward and linear, allowing for easy comprehension. The vocabulary is relatively simple, the font is large, the margins are wide, and the chapters are short, making the format perfect for the age group. The prerequisite illustrations are on almost every page and often cover a full page. They are comic-like in nature and are colored in various shades of blue, which matches the boarder on every page, adding interest. Zeke and his family appear to be darker skinned, making the book inclusive. It is interesting that the illustrator chose to depict Zeke and his family without noses, making it easy to always identify Zeke in a crowd and reminding the reader that they are aliens. It is never easy to start at a new school, especially if you are moving from a different culture, and readers will identify with Zeke, even if they are from planet Earth. I love that the most intelligent character is the cat Zeus. My favorite quote from the book comes from Zeus when he says, "Cats are in charge no matter what planet they are on". So true!