It’s tough to be the new kid in school; when the school is on the strange planet your family’s spaceship just crashed on, the challenges only mount.
Fortunately for Zeke and his kind but clueless parents from Planet Z, their ship’s feline commander, Zeus, a graduate of Intergalactic College, has studied Earth. Establishing them in a vacant house, he sets the family straight on some (though not all) Earth basics: there’s only one sun and one moon; if identified as aliens, they could end up in a zoo, Zeus warns, so they must act like earthlings until they can repair the ship. Zeke’s dismayed when told he has to go to school. He won’t know anyone! “I will be the new zeebop,” he protests. Rejecting Zeke’s suggestion that he go instead, Zeus smugly points out that Earth cats don’t go to school. Luckily, Zeke’s classmates prove to be a friendly bunch, sympathetic when he reacts with horror to the cafeteria’s hot dogs and impressed when he drinks his milk through a straw inserted in his ear. But before it can be repaired, the space ship’s hauled off as junk, and the Zanders must find a way to buy it back. While Zeke’s extraterrestrial family can pass (provided they retract their antennae) for dark-skinned humans, Zeus, a tabby, learns the hard way that passing as an Earth cat has a downside. Krulik writes with a soft touch, sparing use of Planet Z vocabulary and the inevitable misapprehensions drawn by the literal-minded Zanders offering plenty of laughs as well as thought-provoking meditations on just how it might feel to be an alien.
With its promising high concept and laced with plenty of wry humor, this series opener has broad appeal—a good choice for reluctant readers. (Science fiction. 6-9)