Michael K. just started fifth grade at a new school. As if that wasn't hard enough, the kids he seems to have made friends with apparently aren't kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. They have a mission to complete: to convince 3,140,001 kids to BE SPHDZ. But with a hamster as their leader, "kids" who talk like walking advertisements, and Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment? -- Simon & Schuster
SPACEHEADZ by Jon Scieszka (made extra-strength by Francesco Sedita) and illustrated by Shane Prigmore is one of the most original and entertaining middle grade books that I've read in quite awhile. (Of course, I didn't really expect anything less from rock star author Jon Scieszka.) SPACEHEADZ tells the story of Michael K., a fifth grader who is starting a new school. He attempts to make friends but ends up attracting two very strange kids who say they are aliens. Bob and Jennifer (and a hamster) decide to recruit Michael K. to help them convert over 3 million kids to be SPHDZ. If Michael K. doesn't help, the aliens threaten to turn off the whole world!
While Michael is trying to get a handle on the situation with the "aliens," there is also another entertaining character who is trying to capture some aliens. Poor Agent Umber desperately wants to prove himself in his job, and he is willing to do almost anything to catch an alien. Agent Umber definitely provides some comic relief in this story (as if Jennifer and Bob don't provide enough with their incessant quoting of advertising slogans and literal interpretations of commercials) because he is just an accident waiting to happen.
Growing up, I was always the new kid in school because we moved around quite a bit. So I immediately understood Michael K. and his concerns about hanging around with the odd new kids. I thought Michael K. was just an adorable character and I loved his insights and his eventual scheming. I think many kids will agree with me and find themselves relating in some way to Michael K. as well -- whether it be trying to fit in, hanging out with some odd kids, having parents who don't understand, or just feeling like they have to save the world!
SPACEHEADZ is kind of like a graphic novel because there are loads of adorable illustrations by Mr. Prigmore, but there is also a fair amount of text on most pages. It really is a great mix of words and pictures, and I especially appreciated the science lessons that were thrown in. I also liked the format of the book -- the 160+ page book is made up of 38 relatively short chapters. Each chapter left off so that I wanted to keep reading!
SPACEHEADZ is geared towards seven to ten year olds, and I think that's about right. I do think that, as a whole, boys will appreciate this book a bit more than girls; however, I really liked it and I'm passing it on to Booking Daughter. What excites me so much about this book is that I can see even the most reluctant of readers not being able to put it down. Oh yeah -- I'm also really excited that this is the first book in a series!
As I was reading this book, I kept imagining all of the cute possibilities for website tie-ins. So I wasn't surprised to find that there are quite a few websites out there that can enhance your Spaceheadz experience:
- At sphdz.com, you can sign up to be a SPHDZ and help stop the Earth from being turned off. I actually completed the registration and was given a hilarious name "Real Ketchup" -- I hate ketchup!"
- At antialienagency.com, you can see what the government is doing to protect the Earth from the alien menace. This site actually does look like an official government site.
- At mrshalleyscomets.com, you can see Michael K.'s fifth-grade class website. This one is pretty cute too and so looks like a teacher's website with pictures of artwork and announcements.
Trust me on this one! If you know of a boy between the ages of seven and ten, then you have to get a copy of SPACEHEADZ in his hands! It's a terrific book that's guaranteed to make kids (and grownups) laugh. I absolutely loved it!
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.
Giveaway alert: Thanks to Simon & Schuster, I have two copies of SPACEHEADZ and two neon Spaceheadz pencils to share with two lucky readers! To enter, just fill out the form below. This contest will be open until September 6th at 11:59 p.m. ET, and I will notify the winners the following day. US and Canada mailing address only. Good luck!