Saturday, July 06, 2019

Emperor of the Universe and Babymouse: School-Tripped

Lubar, David. Emperor of the Universe
July 2nd 2019 by Starscape Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Nicholas is a seventh grader who gets in trouble in school, probably because his parents are off traveling and he is living on his own, having finagled his way out of staying with an aunt and uncle. No matter-- he is soon whisked away into space, along with his hamster, Henrietta, and a package of ground beef. He accidentally smashes some Craborzi, who are trying to take him, and some of their technology makes Henrietta self-aware and makes her able to talk to Nicholas. The same is true of the package of ground beef, which Nicholas dubs "Jeef". Considered a brutal assasin, Nicholas is now on the run. With the help of Menmar space pirate Clave, the trio start their adventure through space. Having to deal with President Nixon, Zefinoran planet torchers,  and beagle headed Beradaxians isn't easy, nor is Jeef's lack of refrigeration, but the group manages to survive and, oh, yeah, Nicholas gets crowned Emperor of the Universe, which will make the second book in the series interesting indeed!
Strengths: Like Lubar's Weenies short story collections, this is packed with funny thoughts and lines. Henrietta is absolutely adorable, and Clave's desire to rule the intergalactic social media world an inspiration. Nicholas is just clueless enough to get himself into scrapes, but smart enough to get himself out. The variety of space aliens and different planets and technologies is impressive. This was a fun, quick read.
Weaknesses: This falls on the elementary side of the Pilkey line. I think it was the talking package of ground beef that pushed it over. Middle school students would only buy that if the packaged of ground beef stabbed someone in a violent and gory manner!
What I really think: I will pass on purchase, but elementary libraries should certainly have this on their shelves for discerning third graders who love space adventure... with a side of talking hamsters and alien slime!

Holm, Jennifer L. and Holm, Matthew. School-Tripped (Babymouse: Tales from the Locker #3)
July 9th 2019 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

Babymouse has found that middle school is NOT as exciting as she had hoped it would be, at least after the initial couple of weeks. She is still pretty thrilled about her smart phone, but otherwise middle school has settled into a routine. When her art teacher announces that the class will be traveling into New York City and visiting the art museum. Not only that, but because they are older and can be trusted, they will spend the day in the museum and not have to check in with chaperones; they just need to NOT leave the museum and be on the bus at 5:00 p.m. They are also not supposed to bring their cell phones. This, of course, is a ridiculous expectation, and Babymouse brings hers along. She also brings a portfolio of her work to show the curator, just in case she might want to stage a Babymouse art exhibition. Babymouse hears that some of the girls are going to leave the museum and go shopping, and she thinks this is a great idea. Along with her friend Penny, she leaves the museum and almost immediately finds a lost kitten. Dubbing the animal "Pizza Cat", the girls try to find the owners and end up having all sorts of adventures, including meeting Tommy H., their pop idol. At the last minute, they find the kitten's owner and barely make the bus, followed closely by the girls and their shopping bags. Babymouse is worried that she can't tell anyone information about the museum (other than the gift shop), but she manages to fake her way through in true Babymouse fashion.
Strengths: School trips have so much potential for humor and adventure, and are not depicted nearly enough in middle grade literature. This may, of course, be because no one takes trips any more because of funding cuts. This is a fun adventure in New York City with lots of food, fun characters, a cute kitten, and Babymouse trying (sort of) to do the right thing.
Weaknesses: The teacher in me wants to scream "This would never happen!" When we were in D.C., a group of kids wanted to eat at a shop right outside the Pentagon Mall, so I stayed with them while everyone else was outside. We just don't let children wander unaccounted away from school EVER. *Deep breaths* It makes for a great story, though.
What I really think: This will do well; my students always seem to be surprised that this series exists, which strikes me as odd.

Ms. Yingling

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