Jacob went and sat in the larger captain’s chair, and when Sarah reached the cockpit she pressed her lips together. “You think I can’t drive a spaceship?” she muttered.
“I got here first! He gave me the keys. Please?” Jacob adopted his best pleading face, which didn’t often sway the sympathies of Sarah Daisy, but on this occasion he had to try. He was reasonably sure he would be the first sixth grader ever to blast off into space, and he imagined that it would result in a great deal of fame. If he was listed in a history book he might even be inclined to read one someday.
Author: Nathan Bransford
Synopsis: When Jacob and his best friends trade a corn dog for a spaceship, the first thing they do is break the universe. Their search for a way to fix the problem and return home gets them captured by terrifying space buccaneer Mick Cracken, stranded on a world that smells like burp breath, and chased by a crowd of substitute teachers on Planet Paisley. They even get to meet the King of the Universe! But most of all, Jacob hopes to find his long-lost dad—who, it seems, just might be out there somewhere.
Notes: It’s hard to imagine young boys—and girls—not loving Bransford’s Jacob Wonderbar, terror of substitute teachers and adventurer extraordinaire. Jacob has a lot of heart underneath the bluff, and his best friends are just as much fun: forceful Sarah Daisy, who believes she can do everything, and gentle Dexter, who doesn’t understand how to make decisions when other people’s feelings are involved. I loved Dexter.
The plot details have middle school boy written all over them: the burp breath planet, goofy space people, talking spaceships, over-enthusiastic scientists who can be distracted by a math problem to solve. Not to mention the corn dog (though I must admit that I love corn dogs) and the challenges of school. It’s not a particularly challenging storyline, but it’s the sort that even kids who otherwise care little for reading might enjoy—playful, funny, suspenseful, and punctuated with lively illustrations.
Fortunately for its older and female readers, it's not all young boy humor. Sarah Daisy's independence is played for light comic effect without undermining her strengths; Dexter is treated with honest sensitivity, and Jacob is allowed to be very imperfect without losing the reader's sympathy. And if Jacob's teacher doesn't warm the hearts of teachers everywhere, I don't know what will.
It wraps up cheerfully, but leaves some threads open for the sequels. And in the end, it’s hard not to like a book that takes a little time to gaze at the stars.
Recommendation: Children of the right age and/or reading level can be expected almost universally to enjoy it.