A CRACK IN THE SKY

Prophesied savior meets eco-thriller in this too-long apocalyptic adventure. Thirteen-year-old Eli is destined for a cushy job at InfiniCorp, his grandfather’s company; all-powerful InfiniCorp runs the domed cities that house the remainder of human civilization. From the Department of Painless Dentistry to the Department of Cool and Comfortable Air, InfiniCorp reassures the citizens that it’s taking care of everything. Eli bucks the system and his own family’s trust by questioning the glitches he witnesses in the dome. It’s not long before he’s roped in to the plots of the Outsiders, barbarians who inhabit the hellish desert outside the domes. Eli’s adventure occasionally descends to proselytizing, with wise mentors explaining the dangers of climate change and consumerism. As homily it fails: Why learn about climate change if salvation lies in a predestined child of privilege leading the suffering masses to the Wild Orange Yonder? Nonetheless, there’s enough excitement in this story of gadgets and intelligent animal sidekicks (Eli’s pet mongoose, Marilyn, communicates with him telepathically) to keep readers turning pages—though possibly not enough to make them seek out volume two. (Science fiction. 12-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-73708-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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AKIKO ON THE PLANET SMOO

Opening episodes of a comic-book series created by an American teacher in Japan take a leap into chapter-book format, with only partial success. Resembling—in occasional illustrations—a button-eyed, juvenile Olive Oyl, Akiko, 10, is persuaded by a pair of aliens named Bip and Bop to climb out her high-rise bedroom’s window for a trip to M&M-shaped Planet Smoo, where Prince Fropstoppit has been kidnapped by widely feared villainness Alia Rellaport. Along with an assortment of contentious sidekicks, including brainy Mr. Beeba, Akiko battles Sky Pirates and video-game-style monsters in prolonged scenes of cartoony violence, displaying resilience, courage, and leadership ability, but not getting very far in her rescue attempt; in fact, the story cuts off so abruptly, with so little of the quest completed, and at a lull in the action to boot, that readers expecting a self-contained (forget complete) story are likely to feel cheated. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32724-2

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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Willis Holt’s When Zachary Beaver Came To Town (1999). (Fiction. 11-13)

REM WORLD

Preachy, predictable tale of an overweight lad who saves the universe while gaining self-esteem—a large step back from

Philbrick’s Freak the Mighty (1993). The odd helmet that Arthur Woodbury, a.k.a. "Biscuit Butt," receives on his 11th birthday projects him into another world—but because he doesn’t read the instructions carefully, he opens a crack in the cosmos through which all-destroying Nothing begins to seep. Acquiring an inscrutable, monkey-like sidekick, Arthur is propelled into encounters with froglike Frog People, winged Cloud People, and other residents of REM World, all of whom bolster his self-confidence with platitudes ("You are whatever you think you are. What you believe yourself to be," etc.) and send him on his way to the demon Vydel, who alone can tell him how to get back to his own dimension. Even readers uncritical enough to enjoy the author’s lame efforts at wit—burps of epic proportion, avian monsters dubbed borons ("bird" + "moron")—will find Arthur’s adventures so obviously freighted with Purpose as to be almost devoid of danger or suspense. Unsurprisingly, he has only to envision home to be there—and when he wakes up, both the cloud of Nothing and his excess poundage have melted away. Look for more engaging aliens in books like Annette Curtis Klause’s Alien Secrets and a far more memorable fat kid in Kimberly

Willis Holt’s When Zachary Beaver Came To Town (1999). (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08362-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2000

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