SPHDZ Book #1! (Spaceheadz)

164p. 978-1-41697-951-7.
RedReviewStarGr 3—5—Michael's first day in fifth grade is not going well. A new school is bad enough, but the teacher has partnered him with two extremely weird kids. Bob and Jennifer tell Michael that they are Spaceheadz from another planet and that they need his help to save the world. They explain that Earth is in danger of being turned off, depriving the interstellar civilizations of our tasty TV and radio waves. Led by Major Fluffy, the class hamster and mission commander, they must recruit 3.14 million (+1) Earthling brainwaves to join in one giant SPHDZ wave to keep the planet online. However, Agent Umber of the secretive Anti-Alien Agency is on their trail. Umber, the most inept spy since Maxwell Smart, hopes that Michael can lead him to the ETs. Michael wants to save the Earth—but does that mean helping the Spaceheadz or turning them in? As in Scieskza's "Time Warp Trio" series (Viking), comically twisted contemporary cultural references abound. The young aliens speak primarily in TV advertising slogans, which fit remarkably—and hilariously—into the dialogue. Real commercial products, from George Foreman grills to Charmin™ toilet tissue, are put to exotic extraterrestrial uses. The intriguing book design includes chapter headings in English and SPHDZ characters, occasional white-on-black pages, and SPHDZ "stickers" scattered throughout the text. The black-and-white cartoon illustrations are often integrated into the text layout, giving the book a graphic-novel feel. Four creative, well-designed websites contribute important information to the story. Science-fiction fans with a taste for off-the-wall humor will be eager to join the SPHDZ movement.—Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL
With Francesco Sedita. Michael K. tries to stay away from the other new-kid fifth graders Bob and Jennifer--especially after they reveal they're aliens who "need to get three point one four million and one Earth persons to become SPHDZ" or Earth will be "turned off." The zany illustrations and kinetic design strive a little too much for quirkiness; nonetheless this series-starter is a comical, high-energy read.
Readers will enjoy seeing events from the alternating perspectives of bewildered Michael K. and bumbling Agent Umber. Brief chapters and plentiful illustrations are well-suited to chapter-book and reluctant readers. The story is full of silly details that kids will appreciate. Bob and Jennifer’s commercial-catchphrase-filled dialogue is hilarious, for example, and a full chapter in which Major Fluffy “explains” everything to Michael K. in his own language is especially entertaining: “Ee eee, ee eeek wee week. Eeeek wee eeek eeek weee weeekweek. . . .” Features an inventive interactive component: the Web sites that are mentioned in the book are fun and add to the story. Readers will delight in discovering and exploring them.

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