Red (she really doesn’t like to be called that, but nobody listens to her) longs to get away from her lame, annoying foster parents, weird foster siblings, and find a home and a paradise all to herself. When she runs away one time too many, she’s horrified to find out she’s going to be sent to an institution. Luckily for her, she gets rescued. Well, more like kidnapped. By mistake. Next thing she knows, she’s in a giant cosmic garage sale and then she finds herself stranded on an alien planet! With lots of freaky aliens! Red wants nothing to do with these weirdos either, and she’s shocked to find out they feel the same way about her. However, once they all realize they’re truly stranded, they’re going to have to find a way to cooperate if they want to survive – and maybe even thrive – in this strange world.
Pittman’s bright, engaging art has a strong animation feel; no surprise since he’s worked in Disney animation. The plot moves briskly with lots of action and movement in the panels, as well as small, poignant details. Red moves from being chased by an army of weird blue creatures to sitting desolately as she contemplates her situation and her missing shoe. The message that home is different for everyone and we’re all strange to each other is strongly emphasized in the homely details of the various aliens. The father-son duo, although they’re furry creatures with bulbous noses, are every typical suburban dad and kid out on a camping trip. Dell, a lizard-like creature, has a friendly face and caring eyes and is wearing pajamas and a bathrobe. Other than her tail and green color, she could be any average woman unexpectedly woken up and abducted at night. There are two giant Venus fly-trap-like creatures, whose panicked dialogue is both humorous and will also bring to mind celebrities on a talk show, two hairy blue aliens with a Southern twang, and more. Each has a distinct personality besides their creative forms and makes different choices based on their character.
While I’m generally skeptical as the efficacy of children’s books promoting tolerance, the message of this story is not so subtle that it will pass over kids’ heads and not so blatant that it takes over the story. Red is both a sympathetic and unsympathetic character; readers will understand that she’s had a raw deal, but her prickly character and anger make her a difficult person to get along with. As she slowly realizes she’s facing a whole new reality, for the first time she has a chance to make her own choices and be a leader. By the end of the story, readers will be excited to see how she has adapted to her situation and eager to read about her further adventures. Besides the lessons implicit in the story, it’s a great comic with lots of color, humor, adventure, excitement, and, of course, aliens. Fans of Zita the Space Girl, Cleopatra in Space, Amulet, and Bone are sure to devour this sweet and funny adventure in space.
by Eddie Pittman