Sunday, May 16, 2010
Michael K.'s first day in fifth grade is off to a strange start. He is a new student at P.S. 858 in Brooklyn and he is sitting next to two other new students. What's strange about that? Well, one of the students has eaten half of Michael's pencil and the other claims they are spaceheadz from another planet. When not eating pencils, Jennifer spouts wrestling terms like "Total Smackdown!" and "Ready to Rumble!!". Her companion Bob talks in phrases from commercial jingles. Apparently everything they know about Earth has come from broadcast waves.
Their mission is to get 3.14 million and one earthlings to become spaceheadz before Earth is turned off. Oh, and the alien leader is the class pet, a hamster named Fluffy.
If Spaceheadz were a baseball player, it would be a utility infielder because it is able to play several positions well. On one level, it's a humorous story of an encounter between a fifth grader and three aliens. Authors Jon Scieszka and Francesco Sedita bring loads of goofy humor (pickle phones, commander hamsters, discussions about why toilet paper makes bears happy) that will cause readers to laugh out loud and draw stern looks from teachers during independent reading time. On another level, Scieszka and Sedita have created a great vehicle for teaching media literacy. The URLs in the story are fictional websites that students can visit and compare to real websites. Being able to analyze and critique different media forms is an important skill to have, but with Spaceheadz it can be taught in a fun way. Check out the website for the AAA (Anti Alien Agency).
One of my favorite childhood cartoons was Fat Albert. Near the end of the theme song, Bill Cosby would say "And if you're not careful, you might learn something before it's done." The same could be said about reading Spaceheadz.