Inquisitive intermediate readers travel into the great unknown with these four new sci-fi offerings (two of which are series openers) involving space exploration, inventions gone berserk, and UFOs.
In Wendy Mass and Michael Brawer’s Space Taxi: Archie Takes Flight, eight-year-old Archie learns, on “Take Your Kid to Work Day,” that his plain old dad is in fact an interstellar taxi driver. Archie also discovers his destiny: he has the rare power to be a space taxi copilot. The entertaining plot moves right along, and Elise Gravel’s occasional black-and-white cartoon illustrations add to the fun. This is just the first adventure for Archie — here’s to more to come! (Little, Brown, 6–10 years)
Aidan’s parents own the Mercury Inn, which boasts an ideal vantage point for space launches from the Kennedy Space Center on the Florida coast. During one such launch, a blackout interrupts the countdown, and a large, unusual aircraft glows and hovers above the motel. To figure out what’s going on, Aidan, his UFO-obsessed friend Louis, and odd young motel guest Dru Tanaka band together, staying one step ahead of the media, tourists, government agents, and UFO fanatics that swarm the Mercury. The twisty plot and engaging setting of Greg Leitich Smith’s Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn, along with Andrew Arnold’s retro cartoon spot art, work well with the wacky characters and situations. (Roaring Brook, 6–10 years)
In Tesla’s Attic, the first book in Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman’s Accelerati Trilogy, fourteen-year-old Nick holds a garage sale of the attic junk in his new house, only to discover that Nicola Tesla himself made the items. Each one has a mysterious power; when a magnetic baseball glove begins yanking meteorites out of orbit, including one big enough to destroy the Earth, Nick and his friends must race to save humanity while avoiding a (nefarious) collection of self-proclaimed scientists called the Accelerati. Nick is a likable protagonist, and his strong narrative voice propels this humorous, well-paced action/adventure full of secret-society intrigue and quirky gadgetry. (Disney-Hyperion, 8–11 years)
The Summer Experiment by Cathie Pelletier takes place in rural Allagash, Maine, notorious (in real life, too) for its UFO sightings and alleged alien abductions. Eleven-year-old Roberta (Robbie) McKinnon and her best friend Marilee camp out on Frog Hill to investigate the weird goings-on for their school science project. Though much of the story is about the family dramas and school rivalries of ordinary small-town life, Pelletier keeps readers guessing throughout: is the town overrun by UFOs? Robbie’s sassy, humorous voice and wild schemes, along with the well-drawn secondary characters and vivid setting, keep things humming. (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 8–11 years)
From the June 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.