A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the opening scene in which Ketchvar takes over Tom's body by crawling up his nose may be upsetting to some sensitive readers. There are some bullying episodes, and a school counselor asks Tom if he has violent plans. Later, Tom is chased by men and dogs, and then kidnapped by local bullies who try to kill him. But even through all the pain and humiliation, Tom/ Ketchvar does see something good in humans that's worth preserving, stating that "Most humans are doing the best they can." This message might resonate well with readers who are struggling with their own insights about the cruelty of their peers, and of the adult world beyond it.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
Tom Filber's body has been taken over by an alien name Ketchvar, who must decide the fate of humans on Planet Earth. Or has he? Perhaps Tom is really just a misfit teen who has created an insane fantasy life so as not to face school bullies (and bullying family members) in his painful suburban New Jersey life. Either way, Tom/ Ketchvar has certainly made a case for each side of humanity: both the bad (environmental disasters, cruelty, etc.) and the good, including his very sweet neighbor Michelle.
Is it any good?
This book has a little bit of everything: some romance, adventure, a little environmental awareness, and a compelling mystery right at its heart. Namely: Who or what is controlling Tom Filber's mind and body? The author paces his story well so that readers will start to wonder if it's all a fantasy just as the alien narrator asks, "Am I, Ketchvar III, really a part of Tom Filber, a defense mechanism of his that has taken control for a little while?" Readers will enjoy figuring out the puzzle, which is never fully resolved.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the book's ending. The conclusion allows readers to have their own ideas about what happened to Tom Filber. What do you believe? Was he really taken over by an alien? Do you like conclusions that are open to readers' interpretations or not?
Tom experiences a lot of bullying at school. Are there kids who mistreat other kids at school? What have you seen -- and how has the school dealt with it? Have you ever been singled out -- or been tempted to participate in bullying someone else? How could we make it easier for all kids to be accepted?
This book's marketing campaign is being tied into the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. In the book, Tom goes through some extremes -- including breaking and entering and being chased by security dogs -- in order to prove a local paint company is polluting the town's lake. Can you think of something a little less extreme to help celebrate Earth Day?
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