In this postapocalyptic comedy, a family of refugees from an Earth devastated by nuclear war is selected to represent humankind on an alien planet that is reluctant to take them in. The plan was to settle on Planet Choom, already home to several species living in harmony, but in the 20 years it took to travel there, Choom’s dominant race, the insectoid Zhuri, changed their minds, wanting nothing to do with humanity’s violence and emotional ways. As what’s left of humanity orbits the planet, it’s up to Lan Mifune and their family, as the chosen ambassadors, to live among the aliens and somehow persuade them to accept the desperate earthlings. The intentionally vaguely described narrator, Lan, must befriend their unusual classmates while showing that humans can live in peace—and their fondness for comedy proves instrumental in forging a connection with Choom’s denizens. The various alien species feel plausible without straining the imagination, and related physiological and communicational misunderstandings offer amusement galore. Rodkey explores heady concepts such as immigration, tolerance, culture shock, and relative humor in this slapstick-laden allegory, and the story’s lighthearted tone offers an age-appropriate handling of the somber issues and dire circumstances fueling its premise. Ages 8–12. Agent: Josh Getzler, Hannigan Salky Getzler. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year!
"A quirky sci-fi adventure with a surprising layer of political irony."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Rodkey explores heady concepts such as immigration, tolerance, culture shock, and relative humor in this slapstick-laden allegory"—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"An excellent title for discussion.” –The Bulletin
“Whip-smart, wildly inventive, and truly important.” –Katherine Applegate, author of Newbery Medal winner The One and Only Ivan
"Who knew that giant talking mosquitos and brilliant marshmallow girls on a distant planet could provide such crucial insight into what is happening on our planet right now?" -Adam Gidwitz, author of Newbery Honor book The Inquisitor's Tale
School Library Journal - Audio
Gr 3–7—After a 20-year interstellar trip to the planet Choom, Lan Mifune and family arrive. The political climate on the planet has changed, and the surviving humans (Earth has been destroyed) are no longer welcome. Lan and her family are given only a brief period of time to stay on Choom, during which they hope to change the inhabitants' opinions of Earthlings. Lan and her older sister, Ila, must fit in at school along with the Zhuri (who look like giant mosquitoes), Ororos (rather like giant marshmallows), and the ever-hungry Krik. Listeners will hear the screechy sounds made by Zhuri and sense their emotions by the smells they emit thanks to the well-paced, tension-filled narration by Dani Martineck. Though the narrator sounds female, it is interesting to note that Lan's gender is never specified. VERDICT This engaging science fiction adventure with some recognizable, contemporary concerns embedded throughout is brought to life in this well-done audio.—Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library
Who knew the survival of the human race would depend on fitting in at school?
With Earth destroyed, humans have successfully petitioned Planet Choom to take them in as refugees. Narrator Lan Mifune and their family (Lan is never gendered in the text) travel there, arriving to a surprise. During the 20-year journey in bio-suspension asleep, Choom's government has changed, along with their acceptance of humans, and they are asked to leave immediately. With no other alternative, Lan's mom, Amora Persaud, who's on the ship's Governing Council, is able to negotiate a trial run, in which the Mifune family will prove humans can peacefully assimilate. Being the new kid at school is tough anywhere, but on Choom, Lan must navigate the cultures of the werewolflike Kriks; Ororos, who resemble giant marshmallows; and the Zhuri, who resemble giant mosquitoes and express emotions by secreting specific scents. Things get complicated when the Zhuri government executes a smear campaign against humans even as some privately believe humans can be peaceful if given the chance. It's up to Lan and their family to prove humans can contribute to society. Rodkey deftly mirrors recent debates about refugees and immigrants, twisting them into a black comedy-sci-fi mashup. Racial and ethnic diversity is purposely shown solely through names, hinting via surname that Lan's family shares mixed Japanese and Indian heritage. The abrupt resolution might leave some in disbelief, but that's a small price to pay.
A quirky sci-fi adventure with a surprising layer of political irony. (Science fiction. 9-12)