AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planet

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planet Book Poster Image
Animal superheroes battle creepy plants in zany sci-fi tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

In addition to silliness, AstroNuts is packed with science, like chemical formulas (methane gets a lot of attention due to its close relationship with farts, as well as the fact that Plant Planet is so overloaded with the stuff it's about to blow up), carnivorous plants, and more. Also a lot about climate change, the balance of ecosystems, what can go wrong, and what might be done about it. Brief visual reference to Belka and Strelka, early canine Soviet space pioneers. And a secret base inside Mount Rushmore.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about fighting climate change.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The AstroNuts are brave (most of the time), hardworking (most of the time), and dedicated to their mission. Each of them turns out to have at least one odd but really essential skill or talent.

Violence & Scariness

Between the looming threat of planetary doom and the murderous behavior of the resident plants, there's a lot of scary peril and physical combat. Earth (as he never ceases to remind us) is in danger, the Plant Planet's eco-imbalance is a literal bomb waiting to go off -- and then there's an assortment of plants with monstrous plans for our heroes, who have weapons of their own. Hacking, slashing, pruning, imprisonment, enslavement, and other unpleasant things ensue.

Language

"Fart," "butt," and gross-out humor galore, especially related to StinkBug's methane production.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Astronuts Mission One: The Plant Planet is the first installment in a funny graphic novel series by written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by his son-in-law, Steven Weinberg. It involves involving an unlikely team of top-secret superpowered animal heroes, sent into space via Thomas Jefferson's nose cone (don't ask...) to find a new planet for humans, who've made their own uninhabitable. The planet Earth is the cranky narrator of the tale. When they land on a lushly plant-filled planet, all seems great, but they soon learn things are dangerously out of balance (prompting lots of scientific detail about chemistry, the nuts and bolts of ecosystems, climate change, etc., plus lots of zany hijinks). Between the looming threat of planetary doom and the murderous behavior of the resident plants, there's a lot of scary peril and physical combat. There's also a lot of gross-out humor, especially about farts, which are made of methane, which figures importantly in all this. 

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What's the story?

Back in 1988, when scientists first started worrying that Earth might become uninhabitable due to climate change, they created a top-secret team of AstroNuts, super-enhanced animals who've been in a suspended state ever since. But now things on Earth have reached a crisis point, and there's nothing to do but blast AlphaWolf (tall, handsome, full of himself, bossy, and did we mention those claws?), LaserShark (a great cook, nurturing to a fault, and trying to master her zapping power), SmartHawk (dedicated, excellent planning skills, razor beak and thunderstorm-creating wings) and StinkBug (a stink bug) off to THE PLANT PLANET. Their quest is to see if it's a good future home for the humans who'll be fleeing Earth any day now. When they get there, the explorers see a lot of pretty plants and nothing to worry about, but it doesn't take long for things to go wildly wrong.

Is it any good?

Kids who like a lot of silliness with their science will be all over author Jon Scieszka and illustrator Steven Weinberg's new series about four lab-enhanced animals in space. In the first episode, the newly activated AstroNuts are on an urgent mission to check out The Plant Planet. Specifically, to see if it's a hospitable place for humans, since Earth is about to become uninhabitable. Things get weird, as the planet's plants turn out to have some thoughts on the subject. Chaos, disorder, spreadsheets, calculations, and chemical formulas ensue, all narrated by planet Earth, who's not in a good mood.

"It doesn't really matter to me what you decide. I'm a planet. I think in millions of years. If your species decides to temporarily wreck my finely balanced climate and ecosystems by ending all human existence -- I'll be sad. I'll miss you.

"But I will also, in a few thousand or million years, be just fine."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories about life on other planets. How does AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planet compare to some to the other stories you know that involve people living somewhere other than Earth? Do you think it's something you'd like to do?

  • What have you learned about climate change? Is it making the weather, or other things, different where you live? How?

  • Have you read any other stories where plants and trees were characters and part of the story? Do you have any favorites? Were the plants friendly or dangerous?

Book details

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For kids who love science and humor

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