When elementary school students Shea, TJ, Walden, and Dani receive an assignment on gas giants, they head to the library to get help from Mr. Kazarian. During the aftermath of some cat-induced chaos, they discover that their librarian Mr. Kazarian is really an alien! Fortunately, Mr. Kazarian is here to study humans rather than conquer them, and he uses his alien technology to take the students on a tour of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus in exchange for keeping his secret.
Mr.Kazarian, Alien Librarian is a mix of science fiction adventure and science nonfiction. Over the course of the story, the reader learns facts about the gas giants, including the length of their orbit, any key physical traits, and the origins of their names. Writer Steve Foxe explains the information using straightforward, simple language, with a good dollop of humor. Gary Boller’s bright and expressive illustrations present the information in a clear and playful way. The mix of anthropomorphized planets, alien technology, and mythological characters make the information engaging and easy to understand. The transition from the introduction to the main adventure is a bit abrupt and unclear, but otherwise, the art and words flow well.
The characterization and underlying narrative are weaker. The small cast is reasonably diverse: Shea is black, Walden wears a hearing device, and TJ has two moms. That being said, the story relies on certain character tropes, such as the class clown, rather than fully developing the students’ characters. The story rushes to get to the adventure, and the problems—such as the danger of the students revealing Mr. Kazarian’s secret—are quickly handled. While the book would be better if these aspects were stronger, it does succeed in conveying the information.
Libraries will be happy to know that this brief work (sixty-four pages) has reinforced library binding to keep it from easily falling apart. The glossary at the back should help readers with unfamiliar scientific terms, and educators will be interested in the further reading and discussion question sections. Capstone Publishing recommends this book for grades 3-5, with a reading level of grades 2-3. Given the story’s simple plot and characters, younger readers in the recommended age range will most likely enjoy this work. Mr. Kazarian, Alien Librarian is an entertaining and informative read that libraries could offer alongside The Magic School Bus and other educational works.
Mr Kazarian, Alien Librarian
By Steve Foxe
Art by Gary Boller
Publisher Age Rating: Grades 3-5