First in what readers will hope will be a robust series, this hybrid of fiction and graphic novel dusts off a favorite conceit with a slick swipe of edgy visuals and tart commentary. Julian Rodriguez sits at his computer, tapping furiously: "Mothership, you sent me here to study the ways of these mini-brained Earthlings and I accepted your 'undercover mission' against my better judgment." As he tells it, he has stoically endured eight years of condescension, insults and mistreatment as a child in an Earthling home. Cartoons labeled Exhibits A-D make the case: in each a Parental Unit delivers remarks like, "Rise and shine, Mr. Spaceman!" or "Why would you spray paint the bathtub?" A pared-down color scheme (just black and variations of green) emphasizes Stadler's (the Beverly Billingsly illustrator) wiry, kinetic draftsmanship; these tough-guy drawings, whether stand-alones or in panels, toss out little jokes (Julian's school is named Aretha Franklin Elementary) and riff on the text. The plot, not that it matters much, revolves around a showdown between the Maternal Unit and a ravenous Julian: take out the trash or suffer "imprisonment" ("You are going to your room right now!"). It's impossible to read this without laughing. Ages 7-10. (June)[Page 50]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Gr 2-5--Is Julian Rodriguez a youngster who has been frustrated by his parents one too many times or is he really an officer of a Space Federation on a very trying intergalactic, fact-finding mission? After being sent to his room by his "stupid maternal unit," Julian reports to the Mothership the humiliation he has experienced at the hands of his earthling parents, teachers, and classmates. The last straw is, of course, being forced to "dispose of a large canister, filled to the brim with humanoid refuse," which leads to his "trash crisis on Earth." The cartoonlike illustrations give the book the look of an edgy graphic novel, and the lightning bolt on Julian's green shirt gives the protagonist a superhero vibe. The story should appeal to young readers who like Jeff Kinney's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" (Abrams) but aren't yet ready for a longer novel.--Kathleen Meulen, Sakai Intermediate School, Bainbridge Island, WA[Page 104]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.