A fun and fanciful exploration of life in the future.

LETTER TO PLUTO

From the Penpals on Pluto series , Vol. 1

A pair of grade school pen pals exchange a series of amusing letters between Earth and Pluto.

Jon lives in England. His very creative teacher has assigned her students pen pals, with all of the letters to be written on paper, a novel concept in the 24th century. Straxi, his pen pal, is a human girl who lives with her family on odoriferous Pluto. She describes to Jon how the president of the planet has decided to destroy all the very stinky vomblefruit trees in an effort to improve Pluto and boost tourism. Before that can happen, she sends Jon a vomblefruit that his mother attempts to keep alive in her greenhouse. It’s only after all the trees are dead that people on Pluto discover that they were critical to the ecosystem; everything else begins to falter, too, making the planet almost uninhabitable. After Jon sends back the seed from his vomblefruit to begin to restore the lost trees, Pluto is saved and the two children become celebrities. Presented in large “handwritten” text on faux lined paper and accompanied by numerous amusing, small illustrations the protagonists have drawn on their letters, this quick read is both highly imaginative and entertaining, with a useful embedded environmental message. Although character development is minimal, it’s the novel ideas and inventive presentation that shine. Humans depicted present white.

A fun and fanciful exploration of life in the future. (Science fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-84886-470-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Maverick Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship.

MAGIC CANDIES

A child finds connection to the world all around in this Korean import.

The illustrations in this unusual picture book achieve a 3-D effect reminiscent of claymation. The opening scene shows an aerial view of a playground scattered with maple and gingko leaves; a tethered dog watches a child aiming at marbles. Accustomed to spending time alone and solitary play, Tong Tong’s fertile imagination infuses a bag of assorted spherical hard candies with powers that give voice to unlikely speakers, such as the living room sofa and Marbles the old dog, each speaking with Tong Tong to share a sentient perspective. The hard candies also channel the tough love hidden within Tong Tong’s father and Grandma’s bubbly, reassuring voice emanating from another realm. The candies’ magic reveals yet another dimension when Tong Tong is drawn outdoors to witness nature’s beauty as copious falling leaves bid farewell to the season. Through these uncanny exchanges, Tong Tong not only makes surprising discoveries, but also delves into complex emotions, celebrates a continuing relationship with Grandma, and takes courageous steps toward a tantalizing conclusion. The enhanced artwork establishes depth and perspective, featuring details some may find initially unsettling—along with the cryptic, open-ended narrative. That said, depictions of facial expressions are skillful and endearing, and the interplay between text and illustrations will cause readers to linger and ponder.

An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2959-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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