Wednesday, September 11, 2019

"Astronuts #1: The Plant Planet" by Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg (Chronicle Books)

Sometimes when a book adopts a thoroughly original and 'ground breaking' approach to presenting stories in a visual way, it takes us a while to unpick them, digest them and see their true genius.

That's exactly how it was with "Astro Nuts: The Planet Planet" by Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg, the first mission for a very eclectic mix of strange astro-naughty animals, ready to explore the cosmos and perhaps save our world.

Here's an eco story for kids whose eyes automatically roll whenever you try to teach them about 'going green' and doing your bit to cut down on harmful consumerism and landfill waste.

Because of its slightly crazy tone, we're worried the message might be diluted - but it's as important as ever, despite the slightly jokey tone.

The story begins with a bold mission plan, utilising a state-of-the-art spacecraft (that just happens to be hidden in plain sight, as the nose on Thomas Jefferson at Mt Rushmore, no less) to seek out new planets for possible human and animal habitation.

The book isn't shy about highlighting just how special our world really is, and how rare it is in terms of the known universe. The four brave and intrepid animals, AstroWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug have been hybridized to find other planets for humans to live on because we're pretty terrible at looking after our own.

If you were going to pick a rocket shape, you'd pick a nose, right?

So off they rocket to the Plant Planet! Will that planet support human life? Or do Plant Planet's inhabitants have a more sinister plan?

We enjoyed this book, despite the slightly chaotic and crazy approach - and it'll be interesting to see how the series develops and whether the strong eco message the book begins with can be maintained through what could actually be a really cool series for engaging kids who really are turned off by other slightly more sterile approaches to getting them switched on to ecological issues.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A madcap mission into space with a serious undercurrent, do we really have the right to mess up the rest of the cosmos like we messed up our own Earth?

"Astronuts #1: The Plant Planet" by Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg is out now, published by Chronicle Books (kindly supplied for review).