Book and Audio Review: Fuzzy

Beginning a new year of school is not so easy.  But when you’re a robot, it’s REALLY difficult.  From Tom Angleberger, author of the Origami YodaInspector Flytrap and QwikPick Papers series, as well as Horton Halfpot and Fake Mustache comes another humorous and heartfelt story about a unique character.

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Fuzzy
By Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger, Narrated by Erin Moon
4 CDs, 4.5 Hours

fuzzyMax Zelaster is a pretty average student a Vanguard One Middle School.   Of course, to even BE at Vanguard One, you have to be pretty bright; the weekly UpGrade Tests see to that; if kids don’t meet their potential they’re DownGraded to a less desirable school in the Federal School Board Program.  The one thing Max excels at is robots…she just loves everything about them…from programming to design.

So when Vanguard One becomes the test site for RIP, the new national Robot Integration Program, Max is hoping that she might get a chance to participate.  When the awkward-looking robot shows up, Max is less than impressed…especially when it trips and falls, barely missing her as it crashes to the ground.  Her quick actions in getting it back up and running though brings her to the attention of Dr. Jones and Lieutenant Colonel Nina, the people running the program.   The two ask Max to be the robot’s guide in the school.  They explain that Fuzzy–whose name is classified, but the nickname comes from the fuzzy logic he uses to problem solve–might be good at retrieving information and learning from experience, but he has no idea how to be a student.  Max agrees.  What an opportunity to learn!

Soon Fuzzy is immersed in Max’s classes, and Max is finding out more and more about Fuzzy.  And even though he’s proving to be a very good friend, she’s asking more and more questions about why a robot is being integrated into a middle school.  It’s kind of weird, right?  Why would a robot have to learn how to be a kid?

Unfortunately, as soon as things start to go smoothly in their classes, Fuzzy manages to get Max in trouble with Vice Principal Barbara, the artificial intelligence that runs the school.  Fuzzy may be making friends and learning all kinds of new skills, but Max is racking up discipline tags, tardiness tags and citizenship tags…and so is Fuzzy.

What is going on with Vice Principal Barbara, who seems to be lurking around every corner, through her view screens, janitorial robots and the eyes, hands and ears she has (literally!) all over the school?   She seems to have it in for both Max and Fuzzy…and all those tags are mounting.  Even though the adults don’t believe them, Max and Fuzzy know that half of the tags are for things that never even happened.  Through the Vice Principal’s actions, Max becomes a student At Risk.  If she’s DownGraded, she could lose her place at Vanguard One, as well as all her friends and any chance to find out more from or about Fuzzy.

Through some excellent code-cracking and a little sneaking around, Max and Fuzzy  start to uncover some truths about the Robot Integration Program and about Rossum Technologies, which runs the program for the government.  They’re sure they’re onto something, because as soon as they start getting some answers, armed men (and one woman) try to kidnap Fuzzy!  When they get him back, it’s Max’s turn.  With some quick  teamwork by Max and her friends, the kids are onto a government conspiracy with Fuzzy at the center.

Can Max and Fuzzy save Fuzzy from being turned into scrap…or worse?  Can they save Max from being kicked out of Vanguard One Middle School?  Can they discover what, exactly is going on with Vice Principal Barbara and Rossum Technologies?  Only time, friendship and a lot of detective work and effort will tell.

fuzzy audioFuzzy is such a fun audio book!  Narrator Erin Moon is a professional actor and award-winning narrator of over 150 audio books.  She gives each of the characters a distinct voice, and the overall package is wonderful.  I love the short chapters in the book, and the terse style translates very well to the audio.  In fact, I want to go look up Erin and see what else she’s narrated, just because I enjoyed Fuzzy so much.

I would highly recommend Fuzzy as a book or an audio book for kids from fourth through eighth grade.  The whole question of artificial intelligence and school tests, which would probably pass unquestioned by younger readers, would be a great discussion topic by older readers.  The book is deceptively easy, because there is a lot of weight to the subject matter.  Like all of Tom Angleberger’s books, there’s also a lot of humor.  Just ask anyone who has read Origami Yoda, or Fake MustacheFuzzy is a science fiction book with a bit of humor, a smidgen of adventure, with a bit of mystery thrown in.  Anyone who likes any of those things should love Fuzzy.

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So if you’re looking for a good book for a car trip, or just to read around town, try Fuzzy.

Some similar books are: Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks,  Robot Revolution by James Patterson, or Eager by Helen Fox.

Some similar audio books are: Crunch by Leslie Connor and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein.

As always, whether you’re looking for a book or an audio book, our librarians can help you find the perfect one to suit your needs!  Just ask us…we love to help.

Happy Halloween and Happy Reading!

::Kelly::

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Booklist: Twins in SciFi, Time Travel and Humor!

And now, the last of our Double Trouble booklists.  Humor, Time Travel and Science Fiction featuring twins.  (And there is one set of triplets in one of these series…I guess they’re not  all in the Realistic category.)  Ready?  Let’s go!

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Double (or Triple!) the Trouble Family Stories:
Twins, Triplets, Quadruplets…

HUMOROUS STORIES

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

willoughbysAbandoned by their ill-humored parents to the care of an odious nanny, Tim, the twins, Barnaby A and Barnaby B, and their sister, Jane, attempt to fulfill their roles as good oldfashioned children. Following the models set in lauded tales from A Christmas Carol to Mary Poppins, the four Willoughbys hope to attain their proscribed happy ending too, or at least a satisfyingly maudlin one. However, it is an unquestionably ruthless act that sets in motion the transformations that lead to their salvation and to happy endings for not only the four children, but their nanny, an abandoned baby, a candy magnate, and his long-lost son too. Replete with a tongue-in-cheek glossary and bibliography, this hilarious and decidedly old-fashioned parody pays playful homage to classic works of children’s literature.

 

 The Boy Who Howled by Timothy Power

boy who howledAs far back as he can remember, Callum has been living in the wild as the furless mascot of a wolf pack. But when his pack sends him back to live with his own kind, fitting in is quite a challenge. He doesn’t remember English well and introduces himself as “Clam.” Then when he tries to impress an Alpha boy in school by stealing his food, people seem offended! Can Callum find a way to make humans his pack? This hilarious and inventive story will have readers rooting for Callum.

 

Seriously, Norman! by Chris Raschka

0-545-29877-6Now that the whole thing is over (and we all survived!), I can tell you what happened. Picture this for a second. Rock wall six inches on my left. Sheer cliff hundreds of feet down on my right, my best friend Norman in front of me, mumbling something, and my mom behind me saying, “Step, step, step.” EEEEEEYAAAAAH! Next time my mom bugs me about sitting in front of the computer too much, I’m going to say, “Thanks, I prefer it where the near-death experiences are virtual!” No, seriously, this story is about Norman and about how he grows and learns stuff. Uses his imagination. Observes things. Like his dad, who is so devoted to money! Like how his dad is mixed up with weird creeps of the underworld. All over the world! Why, why are grown-ups so insane? That’s exactly the question that Norman, Anna and Emma (the twins), and I, Leonard, try to answer. And with the help of Norman’s new tutor, Balthazar Birdsong (also fairly nuts), we nearly do!

 

Unlucky Charms by Adam Rex

unlucky charmsLast sighted with twins Erno and Emily en route to England, Scott is reportedly searching for a rift in the space-time continuum so that he might save the queen and convince the fairy court to stop their so-called invasion.
Kids today, right? Too many wizard books, not enough fresh air, if you want Goodco Cereal Company’s opinion.  But  Goodco execs are not angry. They only to see Scott get the help he needs before he hurts himself. Or gets hurt.  Sightings of Scott with a two-foot-tall leprechaun named Mick are of course ridiculous and should be reported immediately to Goodco.
Scott, Erno and Emily must save the world from the diabolical schemes of the evil breakfast cereal company which has been luring magical creatures to our world through a rift in the space-time continuum.  Also read Cold Cereal, the first book about Scott’s quest to save the world!

 

The Butler Gets a Break: a Bellweather Tale by Kristin Clark Venuti

butler gets a breakAll is (temporarily) peaceful in the village of Eel-Smack-by-the-Bay. An art heist has been averted, an albino alligator refuge established, and a family of refugee circus performers, gainfully employed. After much thought (and a tell-all memoir) Tristan Benway has decided to remain in the employ of the Bellweather family, and the children, especially, have tried to mend their ways. But old habits die hard, and when the triplets – Brick, Spike, and Sassy – experiment in negative space on the lighthouse stairs, Benway ends up in the hospital with a broken leg, and the Bellweathers are left without a butler. The family’s efforts to find an interim servant fail miserably. Their troubles mount as they become mixed-up with a band of roving Gypsies, paleontological discoveries gone awry, and encounters with rare attack squirrels.  But letting the recuperating Benway know of their plight is not an option. As the Bellweathers spin increasingly amazing stories of their “new servant” at Benway’s bedside, the poor butler starts to wonder if he was ever needed…
Also try Leaving the Bellweathers!

 

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner

templeton twins have an ideaSuppose there were 12-year-old twins, a boy and girl named John and Abigail Templeton. Let’s say John was pragmatic and played the drums, and Abigail was theoretical and solved cryptic crosswords. Now suppose their father was a brilliant, if sometimes confused, inventor. And suppose that another set of twins—adults—named Dean D. Dean and Dan D. Dean, kidnapped the Templeton twins and their ridiculous dog in order to get their father to turn over one of his genius (sort of) inventions. Yes, I said kidnapped. Wouldn’t it be fun to read about that? Oh please. It would so. Luckily for you, this is just the first in a series perfect for boys and girls who are smart, clever, and funny (just like the twins), and enjoy reading adventurous stories (who doesn’t?!). Coming Soon book 2: The Templeton Twins Make a Scene!

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Double (or Triple!) the Trouble Family Stories:
Twins, Triplets, Quadruplets…

SCIENCE FICTION and TIME TRAVEL

 

The Magic Half by Annie Barrows

magic halfMiri is the non-twin child in a family with two sets of them–older brothers and younger sisters. The family has just moved to an old farmhouse in a new town, where the only good thing seems to be Miri’s ten-sided attic bedroom. But when Miri gets sent to her room after accidentally bashing her big brother on the head with a shovel, she finds herself in the same room . . . only not quite. Without meaning to, she has found a way to travel back in time to 1935 where she discovers Molly, a girl her own age very much in need of a loving family. A highly satisfying classic-in-the-making full of spine-tingling moments, this is a delightful time-travel novel for the whole family.

 

The Roar by Emma Clayton

roarMika lives in future London, behind The Wall: Solid concrete topped with high-voltage razor wire and guarded by a battalion of Ghengis Borgs, it was built to keep out the animals, because animals carry the plague. Or so Mika’s been told. But ever since Ellie vanished a year ago, Mika’s suspected his world may be built on secrets–and lies. When a mysterious organization starts recruiting mutant kids to compete in violent virtual reality games, Mika takes the chance to search for his twin sister–and the truth. Check out the sequel The Whisper!

 

Angel of the Battlefield by Ann Hood

angel of the battlefieldWhile exploring The Treasure Chest, Felix and Maisie are transported to a Massachusetts farm in 1836. Disappointed that they have not landed in their beloved New York City, they wonder why they were brought to Massachusetts to meet a young girl named Clara Barton. Perhaps Clara has a message for the twins? Or maybe they have one for her? Read the entire The Treasure Chest series!

 

 

Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle

many watersSandy and Dennys have always been the normal, run-of-the-mill ones in the extraodinary Murry family. They garden, make an occasional A in school, and play baseball. Nothing especially interesting has happened to the twins until they accidentally interrupt their father’s experiment. Then the two boys are thrown across time and space. They find themselves alone in the desert, where, if they believe in unicorns, they can find unicorns, and whether they believe or not, mammoths and manticores will find them. The twins are rescued by Japheth, a man from the nearby oasis, but before he can bring them to safety, Dennys gets lost. Each boy is quickly embroiled in the conflicts of this time and place, whose populations includes winged seraphim, a few stray mythic beasts, perilous and beautiful nephilim, and small, long lived humans who consider Sandy and Dennys giants. The boys find they have more to do in the oasis than simply getting themselves home–they have to reunite an estranged father and son, but it won’t be easy, especially when the son is named Noah and he’s about to start building a boat in the desert. This is book four in the series; read the whole Time Quintet series, which starts with the award-winning A Wrinkle in Time!

 

The Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith

chronal engineWhen Max, Kyle, and Emma are sent to live with their reclusive grandfather, they think he’s crazy, especially when he tells them about his time machine. But after Emma is kidnapped at the exact time that her grandfather predicted, Max and Kyle are forced to believe his eccentric stories—even the one about the Chronal Engine in the basement. Now, to save Emma, Max, Kyle, and their new friend Petra must pile into a VW Bug, and use the Chronal Engine to take the road trip of a lifetime—right back to the Cretaceous period. With dangers all around, the teens find themselves dodging car-crushing herbivores in addition to the terrifying T. rex. In this ancient environment, can three contemporary teens hunt down a kidnapper, forage for food, and survive long enough to return home?

 

The Secret of ROVER by Rachel Wildavsky

secret of roverThe Secret of Rover follows the clever and resourceful twins Katie and David as they race across country in their attempt to outwit an international team of insurgents who hold their parents and baby sister captive in a foreign land. Held hostage because they invented a spy technology called Rover that can locate anyone in the world, Katie and David’s parents are in grave danger. Now, it’s up to Katie and David to rescue them. But first they must find their reclusive uncle, whom they have never met—the only person they know who can help them.

Booklist by Julie G!

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And we’ve now reached the end of our multiples madness!  If you enjoyed this booklist, let us know!  And if you have any ideas for future booklists, let us know that too!

::Kelly::

Old Favorite: The White Mountains

Earlier this month, author John Christopher died. He was 89 years old, and wrote one of my favorite science fiction trilogies.  The White Mountains was the first book of the Tripods trilogy (which became a quartet 19 years after the first book was published) about a world taken over by aliens, with little hope for the humans still living.  Books like The Giver and The Hunger Games and owe a lot to the success of John Christopher’s post-apocalyptic world of the Tripods.

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Will Parker has grown up in a world controlled by alien masters…where humans are complacent, and their lives are simple.  No one knows what the masters look like, only that they move about in giant machines on three legs, called “tripods” by almost everyone. Thirteen is the last year of childhood;  at fourteen, every child goes through their Capping Ceremony, where they acheive adulthood through the implantation of a metal cap on their head. After that, even the most rebellious children turn into functional adults, unquestioning their need to obey their masters.

Will’s best friend Jack, a year older,  is about to be capped. Both Will and Jack are happily anticipating his crossover into adulthood.  Both boys are extremely intelligent, and have managed to roam around the country surrounding their tiny village, exploring the artifacts left over from before the Tripods.  When they’re adults, they hope to solve some of the mysteries left over from that time. Things like how is metal made, or what is a volt, and why is it dangerous? But after Jack’s capping ceremony, he tells Will that it’s time to put away the thoughts of foolish children. Jack the adult has no curiosity, no sense of exploration or fun. Will finds himself both angry and afraid, and alone in the village.

When he meets a mysterious Vagrant named Ozymandias, Will begins to question the ways of the Tripods.  Along the way, he is saddled with a younger cousin, Henry, who also questions their future.  The boys start looking for answers, and soon finds himself in terrible danger.  When the Tripods come for them, Will and Henry flee their home. Together, they narrowly evade capture and seek out others with the goal of bringing down the “masters”. Along the way, they find a French boy who they nickname Beanpole who joins their cause. With the spider-like Tripods on their trail, can three boys manage to survive long enough to find people like themselves and save their world?

And that’s just the first book!  The others are just as suspenseful and exciting.

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I found the whole Tripods trilogy thrilling to read, back when I read it as a fifth grader and now, as an adult. They’re relatively short by today’s Harry Potter book standard, but there’s a lot of action, adventure and emotions packed into these concise stories.  Every word counts, and chapters end leaving you wanting to turn the page to see what happens next.

John Christopher wrote other science fiction novels. both under this name and under other pseudonyms. I also liked The Lotus Caves and Wild Jack. Nothing though, will live up to The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool or Fire which were definitely his most memorable books. When the Tripods Came, which came out 20 years after the original three books were published, is a prequel, telling how humankind fell to these strange alien invaders.  It adds some interesting back-story is now said to be the first book of the series. However, I think that the three originals are stronger on their own, and that the prequel should be read last…or maybe second. (It does give some interesting back-story on things that Will, Henry and Beanpole discover, but personally, I think it ruins some of the twists and turns of The White Mountains.) Because of that, The White Mountains is definitely is the best way to establish the history of the Tripod universe.

I would recommend these books to boys who like science-fiction adventure, or for readers who want to read The Hunger Games but aren’t quite ready for a 400 page book. (The White Mountains is just under 200 pages.)  The White Mountains is accessible for kids in fourth grade and up, but the later books do have some tough concepts for younger readers. They might be better for fifth and sixth graders, if they can get over the “shortness” of them.  They’re a must for anyone who likes science fiction.

So try The White Mountains today, and check out When the Tripods Came, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire.  And let me know what you think!

::Kelly::

Old Favorites: The Witches of Karres

It’s not often that you see a sequel to a book come out 45 years later. When you do, you know it’s a book that had a special place in readers’ lives. That’s definitely the case with The Witches of Karres, by James H. Schmitz.

Now, the sequel usually ends up in the adult science fiction section, but that doesn’t mean that the origins of the book changes!

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Piloting his ship Venture through the galaxy, Captain Pausert is sure that he’s about to win big. Not only will the cargo he’s collected impress his future father-in-law, but he’s gotten rid of all the old cargo that no one thought he’d ever unload. All he has to do is make one stop at the spaceport of Porlumma, then set out a course and get back to Nikkeldepain.

Then he happens across a greedy merchant terrorizing a young girl. It does seem a bit odd that she’s on top of a pile of boxes, but it’s no mistake that she’s trying to get away from the man who’s threatening to hurt her. Captain Pausert comes to her rescue, and soon finds himself owner of Maleen of Karres, who had evidently been the man’s new slave.  Once safe, Maleen bursts into tears and tells the captain that she has two sisters…who are also slaves on Porlumma.

Captain Pausert sees no way around it, if the younger sisters are also in danger, he has to help them. Suddenly, he’s grudgingly the guardian of teenage Maleen, her twelve-year-old sister Goth, and six-year-old the Leewit.  All three girls seem to have caused havoc in their previous positions; Maleen apparently causes stomach-aches, Goth teleports and the Leewit whistles…and destroys things.  Making a narrow escape by the skin of their teeth, the Captain is resigned to bringing the girls with him to Nikkeldepain.

But their welcome isn’t quite what any of them expected, and soon Captain Pausert and his three young witches are back in space, looking over their shoulders and searching for the girl’s home planet.  With the mysterious Sheewash Drive put into place by the three sisters, the Valiant is soon moving through the galaxy faster than any known ship, looking for Karres. Unfortunately, they’ve attracted attention…and lots of it! They have the combined forces of the Empire, a bunch of aliens, space pirates and the dreaded Worm World–the biggest threat to the galaxy ever seen–all chasing them. Can they complete their perilous journey and find their galactic goal? That’s up to The Witches of Karres!

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First published in 1966  as a book (with an earlier version published in 1949!), I found The Witches of Karres in my elementary school library, although I later learned that is was considered a YA book. It does have lots of action, some rather villainous aliens, and a bit of violence, but my fifth-grade brain found it very exciting.  In 2004, The Witches of Karres was edited a bit, and re-released for a generation of new readers. For some reason, it was marketed then as an adult book. Although Captain Pausert is an adult, the girls run the first adventure just as much as he does, and it’s definitely accessible to fifth grade fans of science fiction.

The Witches of Karres obviously had a lot of fans, because although James Schmitz died in 1981, the first sequel The Wizard of Karres, came out in 2004, written by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer, three quite well-known fantasy/science fiction authors in their own right. All three had loved the book as younger readers, and wanted to continue the story of Goth, the Leewit, Maleen and Captain Pausert. A third book, The Sorceress of Karres, just came out this month. Both of the later books are marketed as adult science fiction, but would be appropriate for young adult fans.

So if you have a Star Wars  or Percy Jackson fan who is looking for a science fiction adventure, try The Witches of Karres. See if you think you’d want to join the crew of the Venture and fight Vatches, Sirians, Uldanians and the Evil Empire!

::Kelly::

 

Old Favorite: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet

Science Fiction. It’s a popular genre and topic. Who doesn’t love rockets blasting off, robots saving the world, and aliens coming to Earth?  And yet, there are very few classic children’s science fiction titles.  Some of that is because technology has developed so quickly in the past decades, so stories that seemed cutting edge when they were written are now dated. Part of it is because science is always evolving, and books stay in the time they were written. Part of it is because science fiction is mostly looking forward, not looking back.

And yet, there is one science fiction book that still is on almost every library’s shelves. Even though the science is a little behind the current times, and the aliens aren’t carrying death rays or covered in fur, it’s still a well-loved reading experience. What is that book? The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, by Eleanor Cameron.

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David was planning for an uneventful summer when his father pointed out a small advertisement in the evening paper:
Wanted: A small space ship about eight feet long, built by a boy, or by two boys, between the ages of eight and eleven. The ship should be sturdy and well made, and should be of materials found at hand. Nothing need be bought. No adult should be consulted as to its plan or method of construction. An adventure and a chance to do a good deed await the boys who build the best space ship. Please bring your ship as soon as possible to Mr. Tyco M. Bass, 5 Thallo Street, Pacific Grove, California.

 

David’s father is convinced that the ad is some kind of joke, but David wants to believe it’s true. He spends the next day working on plans, and designs a slender, pointed rocket, with one window in the front and a door on the side, with flukes to keep it running straight. It’s beautiful, and he thinks it should be fairly easy to make.

Across town on a street that (according to David’s father) doesn’t exist, Mr. Bass is also working on plans. Plans for rocket fuel and an invisible skin to protect a rocket from space. Between the planning, he keeps consulting his notebook entitled A Few Facts Concerning the Hiterto Undiscovered Satellite, Basidium-X as he’s researching. He’s also worrying. Is there enough time? Was the advertisement seen by the right boy?

David runs into a few problems building the rocket, so he brings in his friend Chuck to help. They spend hours in David’s backyard, collecting materials from both their houses, revising David’s plans and adding some of Chuck’s suggestions. Measuring and building and, once they find out about other boys working on their own rockets,  trying to be the first to finish. Their final result is a rocket to be proud of.  And they need to get it to Thallo Street, as soon as possible!

When David and Chuck bring the spaceship to Mr. Bass,  things get really exciting. Because Mr. Bass shows them his telescope, and shares his findings: Mr. Bass has seen another planet in our solar system! Looking through a special filter on the telescope, David and Chuck are the second and third Earth dwellers to see Basidium X, a small green planet only 50,000 miles away. Then Mr. Bass reveals why he wanted a spaceship– he wants to send David and Chuck in their homemade ship to Basidium-X, to assess the planet and (if they can) assist its inhabitants.

Will David and Chuck get permission to go? If they do go, will they meet any  residents of Basidium? Will they succeed in their mission?  It’s possible. But Mr. Bass holds all the secrets, and he’s not sharing everything…

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Today is the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, and it seemed like an excellent day to share this great science fiction book for all ages. Written in 1954 (and if you do your math, you’ll realize that was BEFORE the first human spaceflight), it is fondly remembered by almost everyone who read it.

David and Chuck are resourceful, brave and quick on their feet. They not only manage to star in The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, but are featured in a few more titles about Mr. Bass and his friends: Stowaway to the Mushroom PlanetMr. Bass’s Planetoid, A Mystery for Mr. Bass, and Time and  Mr. Bass. The later volumes are difficult to find, but not impossible. The first two books are aimed at readers in grades three, four and five, but are also excellent read-alouds, to kids as young as first or second grade. The boys age as the series goes on, so the last volumes are  probably more enjoyable for fifth and sixth grades.

If you like science fiction, aliens and mysteries, you’ll like the Mushroom Planet series. Pick up a copy today, and read about the two boys who were space travelers before spaceflight even happened!

::Kelly::