Rodkey’s book starts out on Mars. Humans have mucked up Earth so bad, survivors are huddled together in a failing Mars station. Life in the station is rough for Lan and Ila. If wearing holey trade-in clothes wasn’t bad enough, the food riots caused by their father’s Chow convinced many it was time to leave. Some chose to return to Earth, some wanted to try terraforming a different planet, and some wanted to stay on Mars. It wasn’t until an invitation from Planet Choom arrived, that there was a slimmer of hope for what remained of the human race.
After a 20 year journey to Planet Choom, the survivors learned the invitation had been rescinded. Not wanting to look bad, however, the Choom government allowed one reproductive unit to come to the planet as a trial run. Lan and Ila were part of that unit.
Once they arrived on the planet it was clear that they were not welcome … at least that’s what some wanted everyone to think. What should you do when everyone is not in agreement … overthrow the government, of course!
I absolutely loved this book. Rodkey center’s on Lan and her experience at school on Planet Choom. The government attempts to control emotions and actions, but neither the Zhuri, Krik, or Ororo counted on one smart human figuring out their smells. Gasoline = angry, donuts = laughter, sour-milk = fear. Playing just inside the Zhuri’s rules, Lan promotes positive emotions through slapstick comedy.
With a little luck and a lot of help from silent supporters, Lan and her new friends help spread the truth about humans and emotions – they can be fun.
Each of the characters are well developed and their histories are both fascinating and sad. I would have loved to learn more about the Krik and Zhuri’s history though. Aside from being small, green, werewolf-like creatures, we don’t see much of the Krik. The Ororo, white-blue marshmallow-looking giants, are the smallest group on Planet Choom, and we don’t get to hear much about their history either. We do get to learn the tragic history of the Nug and why the Zhuri government changed its mind about the humans.
This book has everything — singing, comedy, fear, hope, conflict, support, and faith. They didn’t know if their plan would work, but they had to try. That’s what life is all about. Whether you’re human or Ororo or Zhuri – perseverance is the key.
I would love to see this book in classrooms and on teachers’ reading lists!