Reading Roundup

smekdayWhat’s Mike reading aloud? The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex.

This book came not just recommended by Mike’s sister, but wrapped in brown paper and hand-delivered by their mother.

Two oft-asked questions in the world of kidlit are 1-What’s out there for boys? and 2-What’s out there for reluctant readers? I can answer both of those questions in one word: This. That may seem strange considering the main character is a girl, and we all know it’s against kid-law for boys to read about girls, but I stand by my answer.

But don’t think those are the only readers who will enjoy this book. The NY Times said it

…will captivate fans of the wordplay and characters in Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” and of the outrageously entertaining satire of Douglas Adams’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

I think that’s true.

Gratuity Tucci, aka “Tip,” age 11, must write a five-page essay for school about The True Meaning of Smekday as part of a national contest. But it’s hard to know where to begin, and since relating personal experiences is encouraged, she winds up, well, writing a book.

When the aliens–the Boov–took over the Earth, they changed Christmas Day to Smekday, in honor of their great leader, Captain Smek. In explaining what Smekday is, Tip explains how her mother was abducted; how Americans were forced onto a settlement in Florida; how she drove herself and her cat, Pig, there; how she met and joined forces with a renegade Boov named J. Lo; how the plan changed and they drove the now-hovering car to Arizona; how a different race of aliens invaded Earth; and what that invasion led Tip and J. Lo to do.

How’s that for a summary?

Three things I especially liked about the book:

1. It’s a fantasy adventure, sure, but it’s also a satire about conquering foreign cultures, and there’s a great friendship story into the bargain.

2. It has tons of off-the-wall details and descriptions. In true fantasy form, Rex has the opportunity to name all sorts of things, and he does a fantastic job of it. But there’s more. Think of something strange that an alien might eat. Now toss that idea and think of something even more strange. Now go one step further, if you can; it’s not easy. Look around; this is where Adam Rex’s details come from.

For instance, “…there was less than I’d expected in the rainy-day fund that Mom had kept in the bottom of an underwear drawer in a panty hose egg labeled ‘DEAD SPIDERS.’ As if I hadn’t always known it was there. As if I wouldn’t want to look at dead spiders.”

We might all think of hiding money in an underwear drawer. Many of us would go a step further and add the panty hose egg. (Do they still make those?) But few, I think, would take that final step and label the egg “DEAD SPIDERS.”

The book is jam-packed with such details.

3. It’s funny, and the humor is often dry and witty–my favorite kind.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can read an excerpt here. I recommend you do.

Categories: Reading