Akiko on the Planet Smoo

Mark Crilley, Author, Mark Crilley, Illustrator Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers $9.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-385-32724-4
In this stylish debut, aliens from the Planet Smoo summon an Earth girl to find a kidnapped prince. Fourth-grader Akiko admits she has no experience as a rescuer: ""I'm only ten years old... I don't have many years of anything."" Nevertheless, Smoo's humanoid King Froptoppit insists that she help him to retrieve the prince from ""an evil, misguided"" Alia Rellapor. As exasperated yet compliant as Alice at the Mad Tea Party, Akiko agrees to lead the mission. The novel gets off to a rollicking start as she meets her teammates, among them a Han Solo-like spaceship pilot and a being called Poog, ""a floating head... covered by pale purple-white skin that shimmered like smooth leather."" Crilley gives Akiko a conversational voice and global flair. With her chunky pigtails and oversize eyes, the character looks like a cross between an anime character and a Raggedy Ann doll; her comical cyborg sidekicks recall sources as varied as Douglas Adams and Tintin author Herge. The rescuers spend the rest of the book battling and escaping a ruthless band of Sky Pirates and never even glimpse Alia Rellapor. After a dramatic buildup, Crilley leaves his well-drawn characters idling in outer space, awaiting the sequel. Those who prefer closure may be disappointed, but everyone else will likely stay on to complete the ride. All ages. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-440-41648-7
Prebound-Glued - 176 pages - 978-0-613-42697-8
Open Ebook - 88 pages - 978-0-440-41862-7
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