AMELIA, THE VENUTONS AND THE GOLDEN CAGE
In this second installment of a space-travel fantasy series for young readers, a little girl and her purple alien pal visit Venus.
At the end of the first book in Amelia’s Amazing Space Adventures chapter-book series, the 8-year-old title character returns from a trip to the moon with her new friend Uglesnoo, a three-armed visitor from Pluto. The two are working their way through the solar system (one planet per volume, it seems) to locate items necessary to save Uglesnoo’s sister from an “endless sleep” and to find an antidote for the rafter-raising snores of Amelia’s sibling. Next stop: Venus, to collect “20 Bliss Bubbles” in exchange for 10 boxes of “Moo-Bon” candy, acquired from the Moochin moon dwellers as a reward for helping them reclaim their underwater Sapphire Palace. Venus is home to catlike “Venutons,” who breathe out silver “bliss bubbles” while sleeping. (These can be cut and knotted at the ends like balloons. The deeper the sleep, the larger the bubbles.) Awakened, the Venutons make it clear that bliss bubble collectors are not welcome. After betrayal by cave-dwelling rabbit creatures, imprisonment in a rolling golden cage shaped like a giant ball of yarn, and a tussle aboard Uglesnoo’s spaceship with one last vengeful Venuton, the pair escapes thanks to Amelia’s quick thinking. Dispensing with the realities of planetary science, Blanchard (Amelia, the Moochins and the Sapphire Palace, 2014) has fun with her imaginary solar system and its inhabitants. Readers should, too. But as wacky as things get (chocolate rain from an “Interspecies Feeder”), Blanchard also delivers thoughtful balance (“The stars scattered like spilled sugar in the inky darkness”). She grounds her plot, too, in Amelia’s relatable moments of uncertainty and her ability to use her head to solve dilemmas as well as in helpful reminders of the escapade’s central purpose: curing Uglesnoo’s sister. Motz’s full-bleed, cartoon-style illustrations, mixed with variously colored text-only pages, reflect the book’s offbeat appeal.
A lively sequel offers a sure-handed blend of fantasy, humor, adventure, and an ingenious heroine.
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