AMELIA, THE MERBALLS AND THE EMERALD CANNON
“Adventure, inventiveness, and humor merge in this quirky, appealing tale.”
A space-traveling girl continues gathering items to help save her alien friend’s sister in this third series outing.
In two previous children’s books, 8-year-old Amelia, a white girl with reddish hair, agreed to help Uglesnoo, a three-armed purple alien from Pluto, cure his ailing sister. A repelling crystal from Neptune will heal her, but that planet’s Queen Neep will barter it only in exchange for a long list of objects from around the solar system. Some the duo has already collected, like five boxes of dandelions from Earth. Next on the list: five pairs of flying shoes from Mercury, inhabited by Merballs. Hostile Venutons of Venus, the twosome’s last stop, try to prevent Amelia and Uglesnoo from trading with the Merballs (“Do not keep these criminals. Bring us the prisoners”). But the Merballs are basically friendly and don’t want trouble. They have problems of their own: They are suffering from asteroid strikes that create a sickening fog of dust, hospitalizing many. After another asteroid hit, Amelia and Uglesnoo come under suspicion and are briefly imprisoned. They fall into an old iron mine, from which they escape. Amelia develops a cunning plan to smash the asteroids with a cannon of her design, using raw materials from the mine. If she’s successful and a grateful Empress Ping rewards them with flying shoes, they’ll be one step closer to curing Uglesnoo’s sister—and maybe Amelia will have a chance to try out Mercury’s inviting slide transportation system. Blanchard (Amelia, the Venutons and the Golden Cage, 2016, etc.) writes a fast-paced tale with a young heroine who’s a quick thinker. Designing and crafting the cannon shows Amelia’s ingenuity and reflects the current interest in maker culture. There’s also plenty of silly fun, such as the green slime floor in the prison cell that almost engulfs Amelia and Uglesnoo, as well as cool tech, like the Plutonian’s multifunctional bed, which plays a role in their escape. Palmisano’s (An Amazing Circus of Phonograms, 2017) illustrations are colorful and three-dimensional, the mix of Earth and alien characters having a family resemblance in their googly eyes.
Adventure, inventiveness, and humor merge in this quirky, appealing tale.