Category Archives: Science Fiction

The Missing Book 3: Sabotage

By Margaret Peterson Haddix

Published by Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2010

Another Dare-ing adventure through time with JB, Katherine, and Jonah. Our time traveling trio will try to solve the history mystery of the Roanoke Colony.

Jonah and Katherine are set to take Andrea back in time to merge with her tracer and do what needs to be done to repair the timeline. Their destination is coastal North Carolina around the end of the 16th century where, and when, the Roanoke colony suddenly disappeared. There seems to be a change in the travel plans though when an unknown stranger causes a problem with the elucidator and they don’t get dropped where they should on the timeline. Not only that, but they lose the elucidator and they have no contact with JB. Does he even know where they are? Jonah, Katherine, and Andrea are going to have to figure out how to fix time on their own if they are to have any hope of escape.

Haddix has found a way to mix science fiction and social studies education together in a neat package with “The Missing” series. Many kids aren’t that interested in history itself, but what happens if you time travel and get dropped into the middle of history? Now that is interesting! I commend Haddix because she researches her history well and feeds the story pertinent information about it as needed to move story along. Nowhere does she add a history lesson for the sake of a history lesson. Kids would sniff this out in a heartbeat. Social Studies education is sorely lacking in American primary education today, and I applaud anyone who can include it in the creation of entertainment.

From a pure enjoyment stand point, children 8 years old and up will enjoy this series. They will love the time travel plot where it takes a couple of kids to save time. They will also enjoy its main characters. Haddix does a good job of writing the sibling interaction between Jonah and Katherine so children with brothers or sisters will really feel it. The author also helps the tone of her plot by not making the book too humorous. Part of the fun of time travel sci-fi is the childlike belief that it is just within reach of the realm of possibility, even though we know it isn’t. Too many laughs would probably keep pushing the story out of that realm.

For me personally, I loved the first book but I couldn’t latch on to the second and third wholeheartedly. This third book at 360 pages just moves too slowly for me with all the questions of what the characters should and shouldn’t do and explanations of time and tracer movement.  What keeps me going in this series is the history. I was interested in knowing how the author explained the Roanoke Colony’s disappearance, and I was quite pleased with that. I understand, however, how all the explanations help young readers to wrap their mind around the story and take it seriously. I would definitely recommend using this book in conjunction with language arts to bring more attention to history in our classrooms. Stories like this just might grab a child’s attention and make them want to learn on their own.

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Filed under Action, Adventure, Families, Fantasy, Historical, Junior Fiction, Love/Romance, Mystery, Native American, Science Fiction

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

2007 Puffin Edition Shown

Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Copyright © 1972

 

“Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” picks up where “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” left of, but if “’Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ is Dahl at his best…” then “Charlie and the great Glass Elevator is Dahl at his worst. However, children will still love the silliness of it all.

 

Charlie, Grandpa Joe, and Willy Wonka have picked pushed the remainder of the Bucket clan into the great glass elevator in order to take them back to the factory which Charlie will now help Mr. Wonka run. However, things go terribly wrong and instead of going back to the Factory they end up in space and under siege by the Vermicious Knids. When they finally make it back to the Chocolate Factory Grandpa George, Grandma Georgina, and Grandma Josephine all get a taste of Wonka-Vite and Vita-Wonk with (nearly) dire consequences.

 

The best way to describe “…the Great Glass Elevator” is clumsy and inane. The Big differences between  “Chocolate Factory” and “…Glass Elevator” is that  former is silly with a point and congruent within itself, and the latter is pointlessly silly and seems full of discrepancies. In “…Chocolate Factory” there was a clearly developed plot and moral in amongst all that silliness, but in “…Glass Elevator” I have no idea why it went the way it did. And even though this is supposed to be a sequel, I could be wrong but there seems to be a discrepancy in the age of the grandparents. In addition the story often doesn’t seem to jive with itself. Of course there is always the giant possibility that I was so utterly bored with this book that I didn’t catch everything.

 

Needless to say, young children, for whom this book was intended, will probably enjoy the silly imagination of this story, but adults like me probably won’t like it so much. I think I probably wanted more chocolate factory and less space nonsense.

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Filed under Adventure, Families, Fantasy, Junior Fiction, Science Fiction

Only You Can Save Mankind

Only You Can Save Mankind

By Terry pratchett

Published by Harper Collins

Copyright © 2005

In 2005 Harper Collins introduced Terry Pratchett’s Johnny Maxwell trilogy to America. Originally released in Britain in 1994 “Only You Can Save Mankind” is the first installment in this series. As the forward acknowledges a lot has changed in the 10 years since the original release of this story, but some things are the same. There always seems to be a war going, and kids still love video games.

In this story Johnny Maxwell is playing a pirated computer game, called “Only You Can Save Mankind,” that his friend and wannabe hacker Wobbler gave him. The game is your typical space invaders type shoot ‘em up. But when Johnny plays a strange thing happens – The aliens surrender! It seems as if the game is actually talking to him and urging him to accept their surrender and escort them to the border out of game space. Soon Johnny is caught up in a battle to save the aliens rather than shoot them. Between this alternate/virtual reality gig and his “Troubled Times” at home with his parents, Johnny’s friends begin to think he is going a little crazy.

In this allegory Pratchett juxtaposes the violent nature of video games and the Gulf War (but really any war for that matter). Though not heavy handed in my estimation, there is a clear moral to this story, that violence should only be a last resort after we have listened well and tried every other alternative. This isn’t the best science fiction I’ve ever read, but it is very good. It has a plot and conflict that youths will relate to, and a while they won’t be looking for it they should find the moral in this tale.  Recommended for children ages 9 and up.

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Filed under Adventure, Families, Junior Fiction, Science Fiction

Sent (The Missing: Book 2)

The Missing: Book 2 – Sent

By Margaret Haddix Peterson

Published by Simon & Schuster Books

Copyright © 2009

In this second book of the Missing series, “Sent”, Margaret Haddix Peterson sends her readers on a whirlwind adventure through time.

In the first book, “Found”, Jonah and 35 other kids find out that not only are they adopted, but they were snatched from time and regressed to being infants. JB, short for the time cop known as Janitor Boy by Jonah and Katherine wants to send them back to their original times. He succeeds in sending Chip and Alex back to their time in the 15th century, but Jonah and Katherine grab hold of them and go with them.

Chip and Alex are actually Edward V King of England and Richard Duke of York. Unfortunately history is to play out so that they die at a young age. Instead of yanking Jonah and Katherine back to the 21st century, JB agrees to let them try to fix time without letting Chip and Alex die.  Will they all get back safely?

In “Sent” readers are given a bit of history lesson. The history lesson is weaved almost seamlessly into the story though. There was a bit more intrigue in the first book which made it harder to put down, but this was still a great book of historical science fiction/fantasy that , while slow at times, made you want to keep reading. I personally have to keep reading because I want to know who Jonah and the other kids were originally.

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Filed under Adventure, Families, Fantasy, Friendship, Historical, Junior Fiction, Science Fiction

Found (the Missing: Book 1)

The Missing: Book 1 – Found

By Margaret Peterson Haddix

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2008

Haddix – Author of the “Among the Hidden” and “The Shadow Children” series – comes at us with another suspenseful series entitled “The Missing”.

It all started 13 years ago with the appearance, literally out of nowhere, of an airplane at an Ohio Airport.  No one saw it land, it didn’t have any clearances, and there were no records of it whatsoever. To make things even odder the plane had no pilot and it was full of babies.

In this first book “found” we are introduced to Jonah, a 13 year old boy who is well aware that he is adopted. He has a loving family who has tried their hardest to be open about his adoption and to make sure that he is well adjusted.  They have succeeded in their efforts up to now, but time has a way of changing things. Well, time and disappearing people.

Jonah has begun to receive anonymous letters telling him he is one of the missing. At first he chalks it up to being a junior high prank, kids picking on him because he is adopted, but then his new friend Chip gets the same letters. Chip to his surprise finds out that he was adopted and his parents never told him. But if Chip didn’t know he was adopted how could anyone at school know?

Chip, Jonah, and Jonah’s sister Katherine decide to investigate, but the more they uncover the less they understand and the more Jonah really wants to know who he really is.

Margaret Haddix has written a masterful suspense for the junior set. (What am I saying, I’m 32 and I loved it.)  Just when you think you are getting answer you end up getting another question with it. She takes the teenage search for an identity to the extreme, with young teens who are dealing with the normal peer/identity issues, and compounds them with adoptions and Sci-fi intrigue. Great book!

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Filed under Adventure, Elementary/Middle School, Families, Friendship, Junior Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction