Sawyer Bronson’s spiky stegosaurus tail provides both help and hindrance in a rescue flight to the red planet that takes on solar system–wide significance.
As in Dinosaur Boy (2015), Oakes lays a plotline stocked with daft twists atop a foundation of big, serious themes. Thanks to some bad history and simmering racial tensions, the upcoming soccer game between Mars’ Red Razers and the blue-skinned Kuiper Kickers of Pluto is shaping up to be a grudge match, with Pluto’s iffy status as an official planet and its very membership in the Intergalactic Soccer Federation at stake. But even before Bronson arrives on Mars in his grandpa’s flying saucer there are hints that the fix is in—with the Martian Council set to vote the dwarf planet out whatever the final score and a radical Plutonian splinter group dubbed the Brotherhood United for the Restoration of Planetary Status (which yields the delightful acronym BURPSers) plotting to release an experimental bioweapon. Can Bronson find a way to scotch both schemes? Around these plainly metaphorical elements the author weaves subplots including divorce, friendship, polar bear extinction, and the power of classic TV to promote interplanetary harmony. She also again sets up her white, fifth-grade protagonist to display a thoroughly admirable willingness to make peace by shouldering responsibilities that others will not.
Deft stimulus for both brains and funny bones. (appendix of scientific references) (Science fiction. 10-12)