The Fuzzy Apocalypse

HarperCollins/Harper. (Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian: Bk. 1). Sept. 2020. 128p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062932150; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780062932143.
Gr 1-3–In this early reader chapter book, a young troop of interstellar space scouts explore both a new planet and the limits of their friendship. Finn and his best friends are the children of astronauts. The four kids and their robot sidekick are tasked with finding a planet that humans can inhabit. On the first prospective planet, they meet Doug, a manipulative alien who convinces them that ne’er-do-well bunnies are set to destroy his planet, and that an explosion is imminent. But the lone remaining bunny tells a different story, and is desperate to escape the despotic Doug, who can plant messages and images in the minds of those around him. Finn and his friends have to decide who to believe and how to help. The tension is high between Finn and his friend Abigail, the scouting group captain, because they both want to be in charge, and their plan of action is complicated further when Doug uses his mind-control powers to split the troop. Reminders of the countdown to explosion set an exciting tone, and colorful descriptions of the planet being explored are both vivid and entertaining. The fast-paced plot dabbles in high stakes problems, but the narrative remains lighthearted and at times downright silly, as do Bitskoff’s cheerful illustrations, sprinkled throughout the text. Messinger has written a book for beginning readers that impressively tackles how kids can express their emotions—which also includes a thinly veiled metaphor for climate change and individual and societal responsibility—but manages to keep the tone merry throughout.
VERDICT Finn and friends learn that teamwork means not doing everything yourself and that relying on each other’s specialty areas and strengths makes them stronger as a troop. Highly recommended for juvenile fiction collections.

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