Plot/Idea: Rolo the Pet Earthling is an endearing middle grade romp accompanied by vibrant illustrations that overturns the pet-human dynamic.
Prose: Ness's prose is warm, silly, and age-appropriate. Readers will especially appreciate the humorous descriptions of various otherworldly 'pets,' none of which measure up to an "Earthie."
Originality: Readers will find much to appreciate in the off-the-wall premise of an alien world in which earthlings are coveted as pets.
Character/Execution: Many readers will relate to Zira's desire to have a pet of her own. Humor abounds throughout the story as Rolo settles in to life with Zira, while there's a quieter sentiment about belonging, individuality, and finding one's place.
Date Submitted: August 28, 2023
Ness brilliantly creates a charming, goofy world perfect for younger audiences. Planet Blorx features a variety of humorous creatures, such as the kiffy, who curls onto laps and makes a “chortling” sound if they like their owner, and Rolo’s pet quagling, a lovable creature with two arms, three legs, and one yellow eye. Ness leans into the delightful playfulness of earthling pet ownership, noting such details as the rivalry between earthlings and squirrels and how some earthlings train as championship “show earthlings.” These humorous elements captivate readers’ imaginations and set a lighthearted tone, but there is a deeper message to this joyful adventure.
The central characters’ emotional journey is stirring. Zira’s struggle to maintain a strong bond with her older sister after a family fracture sets the stage for the young alien to explore her loneliness and frustration, while Rolo, longing for independence and information about his origins, matures while learning to stand up for his needs. Their adversity teaches the value of altruism and truly listening to others—and portrays the comfort that good friendships can bring. Sofia Komarenko’s illustrations are striking, appealingly comic and at times icky, with the aliens rendered in amusingly mucus-hued green. Middle-grade readers eager to explore an imaginative new world of aliens, adventure, and affection will delight in this fun-spirited sci-fi.
Takeaway: Earthlings make remarkable pets for aliens in this lively sci-fi adventure.
Comparable Titles: Geoff Rodkey’s We’re Not From Here, Bruce Coville’s Sixth-Grade Alien series.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A