AstroNuts Mission Three: The Perfect Planet

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
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Silliness, time travel, saving the planet in wild finale.

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A lot or a little?

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

Stands out for positive messages.

Educational Value

Just about every page of The Perfect Planet has some fascinating bit of knowledge, like Abraham Lincoln's patent for a boat-lifting apparatus. The afterword looks at some of the series' artwork and explains what's going on in the original images, which might be from the Renaissance and might be from the Hubble Space Telescope. The illustrations are collages built from the graphic collections of the Rijksmuseum, the Smithsonian, and other fine institutions that have put the works in the public domain. Alert readers will also note a bit of an homage to Burning Man. As the story unfolds, there's a lot about science, the environment, too much carbon in the atmosphere. Also time travel and other popular science fiction scenarios.

Positive Messages

Strong message of changing our environmentally harmful ways and saving the planet, even if we are not comic superheroes. Also friendship and teamwork, even when one of your team bails on you and goes over to the other side. There's quite a bit of patience and perseverance from the team as the people they've been sent to help seem pretty unpromising, so there's a lot of creative thinking and clever tool-building.

Positive Role Models

Command Escape has decided that SmartHawk will be a better Mission Leader than AlphaWolf, who, to put it politely, has come pretty close to disaster on the previous mission. SmartHawk is not only smart, she's very responsible and a good team leader. AlphaWolf not so much, as he spends the first part of the book throwing hissy fits before deserting the AstroNuts and going over to the wolves (he comes to regret this). Fortunately, SmartHawk, the brainy, geeky StinkBug, and relentlessly cheerful chef extraordinaire LaserShark are a good team and able to adjust creatively when things don't go their way.  The Sapiens family seem a bit hopeless at first meeting, but mom Lucy and baby Urp have hidden depths. Meanwhile, Planet Earth complains a lot and hopes for a good outcome. 

Diverse Representations
Violence

Aside from the threat of imminent planetary doom that's the premise for the Astro-Nuts series, there's also a lot of comic but real danger from a pack of Dire Wolves trying to beat out Homo Sapiens as the dominant species -- and also planning to devour a lot of other species. The Astro-Nuts and their new friends the Sapiens family come up with a number of creative weapons along the way. Says narrator Earth, "I can honestly tell you I have never seen a fight as weird as wooly mammoths vs. superpowered AstroNuts in an Abraham Lincoln Beard." In the resulting fray, tusks are sliced in two, trunks tied in mathematically complex knots, and farts  deployed.

Sex
Language

Occasional mildly iffy language: "Who else do you think it could be? Venus, that overheated tart? Jupiter, that big old gasbag? Ice-cold Uranus?" Pee humor, including the time-honored trick of putting a sleeping person's hand in warm water.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that AstroNuts Mission Three: The Perfect Planet is the rousing, brainy, hilarious conclusion to the AstroNuts series, in which author Jon Scieszka and illustrator Steven Weinberg chronicle the unlikely attempts of NNASA (not-NASA), housed in a top-secret lab in Mount Rushmore, to find a new planet for humans. Earth, who's a cranky narrator throughout, has a probably terminal case of global warming, pollution, and other catastrophic ills. The mission team -- AlphaWolf, SmartHawk, LaserShark, and StinkBug -- has a lot of interesting superpowers. But the previous two missions have been less than successful and the situation is dire -- so this mission involves sending the team a million years back in time to make sure Homo Sapiens (our human ancestor) never discovers fire. The narrative and afterword are packed with collaged art from the world's great museums, as well as fascinating facts (like Abe Lincoln's patent on a boat-lifting apparatus) and fiction (like time travel).  A relatable subplot involves AlphaWolf (who's pretty much a self-absorbed jerk in the best of times) being in such a snit at not being Mission Leader that he goes and joins the villains -- who immediately pull the putting-the-sleeper's-hand-in-warm-water pee prank on him. Meanwhile, the rest of the team is a bit more serious about their job and perseveres, with weaponry ranging from convex mirrors to epic farts.

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What's the story?

Well, the first two missions to find a new planet for humans didn't exactly go as planned, so things are getting desperate as climate change, pollution, and other ills make Earth -- who, understandably, is complaining a lot -- uninhabitable. So it's time for the last-ditch effort: ASTRONUTS MISSION THREE: THE PERFECT PLANET. This sends our heroes AlphaWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug a million years back in time, hoping to keep the first humans from discovering fire and causing all this trouble in the first place. Easy-peasy, right? However, very little goes according to plan, starting with the fact that AlphaWolf is throwing a hissy fit at not being Mission Leader. Can the rest of the team and the Sapiens family save the day? And the planet?

Is it any good?

Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg deliver an info-packed, wildly visual, relentlessly silly finale to their trilogy celebrating planet-saving superheroes. AstroNuts Mission Three: The Perfect Planet takes AlphaWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug back in time to prevent Homo Sapiens from discovering fire -- yeah, like that's going to work. Complications, obstacles, and sudden breakthroughs ensue. And any team that's had to get a job done despite one of its members being all about himself will find the plight of diligent SmartHawk, relentlessly helpful LaserShark, and studious StinkBug all too relatable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how AstroNuts Mission Three: The Perfect Planet uses a lot of silly humor to make a serious point -- in this case, about dire threats to planet Earth's survival. Do you think silliness can be a good way of bringing attention to something you think is important? What other stories you think do this well?

  • Have you ever had to work with someone who did nothing but whine, moan, and make it all about him while you were trying to get a job done? What happened? How did you deal with it?

  • If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be? How would things be different today as a result?

Book details

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For kids who love graphic novels and time travel

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