A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ambassador, by National Book Award–winning author William Alexander, does not return to the magical steampunk world of Goblin Secrets and Ghoulish Song. Set alternately in present-day Minneapolis and in various points in outer space, it shares many qualities with the earlier volumes: appealing characters, strong family values, and unexpected paradigm shifts, with life lessons and laughs along the way. Many laughs and lessons here have to do with learning to see things from others' viewpoints and the importance of empathy and flexibility in solving problems. It's told from the perspective of 11-year-old Gabe, whose world changes forever when his Mexican parents and older sister, in the United States illegally since before Gabe was born, are discovered and threatened with deportation. The story gives the issue of unauthorized immigration and its ramifications a heartfelt, one-sided perspective. Besides triggering discussions of immigration-related issues, this might launch some interesting conversations about how controversial issues are driven by different perspectives.
What's the story?
Eleven-year-old Minnesota kid Gabe Fuentes thinks he's in for a really boring summer of watching his toddler siblings while his parents and older sister work -- that, and staying out of trouble after he and his best friend Frankie survive their first attempt at launching a rocket from the yard, with fatal results for Frankie's mom's lawn furniture. Unbeknownst to Gabe, a transparent purple being called The Envoy is about to arrive from outer space, presenting him with what may be a world-saving mission as Earth's AMBASSADOR to other planets -- just as a fateful traffic stop threatens the entire family, as Gabe's undocumented parents and sister face deportation back to Mexico with little hope of return.
Is it any good?
Heartfelt moments, appealing characters, and thrilling adventures abound here, as the author and protagonist play with the concept of "alien," from today's immigration woes to sci-fi space travelers. The two plot threads -- the family's predicament with Dad in jail, and Gabe's mission to the spacefarers who just blew up his house -- intertwine, not always smoothly, but it's never boring. Many parents will find the treatment of complex political issues one-sided, but this can lead to some interesting, age-appropriate discussions about seeing things from various viewpoints -- an important theme.
Not unlike its two predecessors, Ambassador feels like the introduction to a series, and this volume ends especially abruptly, with many issues unresolved and new, intriguing possibilities emerging.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss science fiction and why it's appealing. Do stories and characters set in outer space or alternate universes have anything to do with us? What might that be, in this story or other science fiction you know about?
Gabe's family has emergency plans for everything including alien invasions. Does your family have a plan for natural disasters and other emergencies? What is it?
Do you know the story of how -- and why -- your family, or your ancestors, came to America? What challenges did they face at the time? What's different today?
- Author: William Alexander
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Space and Aliens
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
- Publication date: September 23, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Themes & Topics
For kids who love adventure and science fiction
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.