The Secrets of Star Whales

North Star. Mar. 2021. 228p. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781631634413.
Gr 4-7–Max lives on the Azura space station, where gossip is currency because nothing interesting happens. That is, until a mysterious stranger docks his starship and changes almost everything about Max’s world—his classroom, his friends, even his understanding of the place where he lives. Mr. Hames becomes Max’s teacher and ends up taking his class on a journey none of them will forget—on a search for Star Whales. Not only will this search bring his classmates closer together but Max will also learn more about his deceased father than he ever thought possible. Thorne crafts a cast of characters who get better as the plot transitions into warp speed; themes of trust and friendship are ones readers will relate to. Characters are not assigned any race or color, with main descriptors being names and the illustrated cover; the main characters (Max, his mother, and Mr. Hames) are most likely white. While Thorne explains some sci-fi lingo, it would be helpful if readers came into Azura with a base knowledge of science fiction terminology. The novel has just enough fantasy mixed in with science fiction to keep readers guessing. For instance, the idea of creatures living in the vacuum of space is solidly sci-fi, but the reason why only certain people can see them is amusingly fantastical. Be warned, there is some violence on Azura, both in the action and alluded to by characters.
VERDICT A fun romp through space that will keep readers engaged and eager for other science fiction titles.

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