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The True Meaning of Smekday
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's some cartoonish violence in this book that inspired the movie Home, with science-fictiony weapons that vaporize things, and lots of explosions. Once character is knocked out, and otherwise only non-character aliens are hurt. There's also some mild swearing. The main character, Gratuity, talks about her mom stuffing Gratuity's Christmas stocking, which could burst any Santa bubbles kids are holding on to.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In essays for school and a time-capsule contest, Gratuity Tucci describes her cross-country road trip with a Boov alien she calls J.Lo. The Earth has been invaded, her mother kidnapped, and all Americans are herded into a reservation in Arizona. From there she and J.Lo work to stop yet another invasion by even worse aliens, the Nimrogs, who were inadvertently drawn to Earth by J.Lo.
Is it any good?
This is good, silly fun. It's the kind of story in which the main characters bicker over a walkie-talkie about what to call their plan (Operation: Catastrophe vs. Operation: Piggyback, both puns) even while running and being shot at by marauding alien monsters. And the evil alien monsters love fighting and musical theater, and "fought one another in a three-hundred-year-old civil war that is believed to have started over a parking space." You know, the kind of goofy, off-the-wall humor that many kids think is just hilarious.
Illustrated with a few comic strips (could have used more of those) and other drawings, the book bogs down in places, and would have benefitted from a firmer editorial hand: lopping off about 150 pages would have done the story no harm and done more to hold the interests of the kind of kids who will be drawn to something like this. Still, this will be a popular choice for fans of Terry Pratchett and Larry Gonick, and, with its abundance of strange creatures, whacky scenes, and silly accents and voices, it should make a great read-aloud.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about some of the issues the author raises. What are the parallels between what the Boovs do to humans and what Europeans did to Native Americans?
Are the Boovs ultimately good or bad? What do you think of the way Americans organized themselves in Arizona? What do you think would really happen if all Americans were shipped to Arizona?