Spaceheadz, Vol. 1
written by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by Shane Prigmore
Somewhere out in the deep recesses of space, every radio and TV signal we’ve ever beamed out is hurtling across galaxies at light speed. And just what would some alien race think of us if they were to intercept any of those transmissions? Well, they’d probably have some confused, mixed-up opinions about how we earthlings go about our days.
The bad news: The aliens who discovered those transmissions have invaded earth. The good news: They’re not too bright. The even better news: They’re pretty funny, as is Spaceheadz, the new series just started by author Jon Scieszka, bestselling author of The Stinky Cheese Man and The Time Warp Trio. Three of the aliens have disguised themselves and stand poised to pull off the plan. Two of them look just like any other fifth-graders, even if they don’t actually sound like any you would know: Mostly, they spout advertising jargon (because our advertising is how they’ve really gotten to know us). Their leader takes the form of a hamster—naturally. The school pet is clearly the one in charge.
The aliens meet up with Michael K., a typical kid just trying to make his way through school. But he becomes the first recruit for the aliens, who are tasked with acquiring some 3,400,001 people to become SPHDZ (that’s Spaceheadz in the book’s lingo).
The book engages its audiences in multimedia ways cut out of our digital age. There are several websites to go to if you care to further enrich your enjoyment of the stories (and more websites will appear as the rest of the series unfolds). As such, the book grabs readers’ attention and engages them in multiple ways, meeting the reading habits and attention spans of the target audience right where they live. It’s smart on a marketing level and it’s also a lot of fun. But even better is that it’s not absolutely essential—that is, the book itself can be read and thoroughly enjoyed completely on its own. Those readers looking for more, or who want to feel like they’re even further engaged in the story, can visit a website that looks suspiciously like a real, authentic government agency’s and poke around till they find clues that may or may not become clearer in future books. They can join the SPHDZ even.
The illustrations by Shane Prigmore are a winner. They keep the book fresh and lively and mesh well with the book’s overall theme, which Scieszka has said is to help teach kids media literacy. It’s a valuable and worthwhile endeavor, and using advertising-speak to convey it is funny and effective. Ideally, while they’re enjoying the silly fun and entertaining storyline of Spaceheadz, kids will also take heed of the real message: that advertising is omnipresent in our society but that doesn’t mean it is always truthful. Even more to the point: Advertising does not always have to be obeyed.