Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Galaxy Zack: Hello Nebulon! by Ray O'Ryan, illustrated by Colin Jack

This is the "boy" complement to the Critter Club series I reviewed last week. In fact, they were both bound together in the ARC I received. This is a cute beginning to a series and a nice, if not unique premise, but I had some problems with the book.

So, the idea of the book is that Zack is a perfectly normal kid with annoying twin sisters, dealing with normal kid problems like moving, going to a new school, making friends, and dealing with a school bully (that happens in the next book). He's just doing it all in outer space on a planet called Nebulon.

My problem with the book is first that there's no real conflict. It's a sort of Jetson family version of the future. Zack's family first shows up in their own space cruiser, when they arrive at the planet they pick out a futuristic car that pops open and Zack fits more or less in at school and makes a friend immediately. Even his worries about his dog, Luna, left on earth are resolved by the final chapter as his dad brings Luna up to space for him. There isn't really any plot, just Zack looking at weird aliens and their world.

My second problem is more an ongoing annoyance. This is supposed to be a futuristic world and Zack's family a super-normal, everyday family. WHY does Zack have to be blonde and his sisters redheads? Some scientists think the redhead gene is dying out anyways. It's much, much more likely that Zack's family would be biracial or even just brunette. This really annoys me. There's no reason they have to be white, it's just a default for the author and publisher I guess. But seriously? I live in a small, homogeneous, midwestern town. There are still more biracial and African-American kids than there are redheads. And YES, books with kids of color like this will sell - I have lots of kids who love the EllRay Jakes series. I would like artists to add some brown pencils to their art supplies and authors to cross off redheads from their list of descriptions forever PLEASE.

Verdict: I think kids will probably check this out, but they'll be disappointed that nothing interesting really happens and the series will die on the shelf. I'll pass on this and we'll stick with Pamela Service's beginning chapter series about aliens.

ISBN: 9781442453869; Published April 2013 by Simon and Schuster; ARC provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter 2013

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