When this fourth-grader comes home from school one day, she finds an envelope waiting for her with no stamp and no return address. The message inside reads Dear Akiko: We are coming to get you. Meet us outside your bedroom window tonight at 8:00. Don't forget your toothbrush. How could anyone meet her outside her window She lives on the 17th floor, for goodness sake.
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.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2000
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Excerpt from Akiko on the Planet Smoo by Mark Crilley
My name is Akiko. This is the story of the adventure I had a few months ago when I went to the planet Smoo. I know it's kind of hard to believe, but it really did happen. I swear.
I'd better go back to the beginning: the day I got the letter.
It was a warm, sunny day. There were only about five weeks left before summer vacation, and kids at school were already itching to get out. Everybody was talking about how they'd be going to camp, or some really cool amusement park, or whatever. Me, I knew I'd be staying right here in Middleton all summer, which was just fine by me. My dad works at a company where they hardly ever get long vacations, so my mom and I have kind of gotten used to it.
Anyway, it was after school and my best friend, Melissa, and I had just walked home together as always. Most of the other kids get picked up by their parents or take the bus, but Melissa and I live close enough to walk to school every day. We both live just a few blocks away in this big apartment building that must have been built about a hundred years ago. Actually I think it used to be an office building or something, but then somebody cleaned it up and turned it into this fancy new apartment building. It's all red bricks and tall windows, with a big black fire escape in the back. My parents say they'd rather live somewhere out in the suburbs, but my dad has to be near his office downtown.