The Challengers

Greg R. Fishbone, illus. by Ethan Beavers. Lee & Low/Tu Books, $15.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-60060-660-1
Fishbone (The Penguins of Doom) fulfills every alien-obsessed kid's dream with this first book in the Galaxy Games series, about a pressure-filled cosmic challenge between 11-year-old Tyler Sato and M'Frozza, a cheerful squidlike Mrendarian. For his birthday, Tyler's Japanese relatives name a star—TY SATO—after him, which turns out to be a spaceship heading toward Earth. Tyler ends up captaining a team of top athletes from around the world to take on a manipulative team of Easter Islandesque statues in a complicated game of tic-tac-toe. Complemented by Beavers's comic book–style artwork, Fishbone's narrative is ripe with kid-friendly humor—i.e., Earth's radio and TV transmissions are picked up by the toilets on the Mrendarian ship—and many of the plot twists could be straight from the "what if" imaginings of a fourth-grade classroom. However, the story can be a little too jam-packed: a subplot involving a Japanese cousin doesn't feel pertinent, and inklings of tension between Tyler and his workaholic father simply disappear. Though Fishbone clearly sets up the next book, he gives Tyler enough of a victory to leave readers satisfied. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
Hardcover - 347 pages - 978-1-60060-877-3
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