Henry P. Baloney needs to come up with a very good, very believable excuse for being late to szkola
yet again--or he's in big trouble with his teacher Miss Bugscuffle. But never fear! Henry has a doozy of a story. You see, it all started when he misplaced his trusty yellow no. zz zimulis
. One thing led to another, and before he knew it, he was on a razzo
blasting off into space, where he eventually landed on the planet Astrosus. All went well there, as the intrepid explorer entertained the Astro guys with his funny piksas
--until they decided Henry and his piksas
would be entertaining to eat. Things go on in this vein until somehow, miraculously, Henry P. Baloney ends up back in his classroom, a mere seven minutes late--but still one writing utensil short!
Trust the ultracreative author/illustrator pair, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, the Time Warp Trio series, and more), to mastermind a plot this bizarre and yet somehow familiar to any school kid. Sure, Henry P. Baloney is a cute, saucer-eyed, green alien, but he has problems just like you and me--such as the threat of Permanent Lifelong Detention. Remarkably, as Scieszka reports in his afterword, when he received and decoded the transmission of this story (directly from deep space, mind you), it was written in a combination of many Earth languages, including Finnish, Swahili, Latvian, Esperanto, and Inuktitut (decoder included). Go figure.
Caldecott Honor artist Lane Smith must have spent a lot of time in detention, doodling away the hours. His weird, wild, wonderful pictures tell at least half the story, illustrating for readers' enlightenment just what a zimulis ("pencil" in Latvian) or speelplaats (Dutch for "playground") looks like. Fans of this ingenious pair will not be disappointed and may even make a twrf (Welsh for "noise") of joy! (Ages 5 to 9) --Emilie Coulter
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From Publishers Weekly
This book's gleaming silver cover and little green namesake signal intergalactic adventure. Fortunately, Scieszka and Smith (Squids Will Be Squids) prefer innovation to UFO clichs, and this tale of an alien truant is also a language game. Lime-colored, freckled Henry P. Baloney is late for class and faces "Permanent Lifelong Detention" from Miss Bugscuffle. He concocts an excuse that spools across the pages in emphatic, italicized capital letters. " `I would have been exactly on time,' said Henry. `But... I misplaced my trusty zimulis. Then I... um... found it on my deski.' " Smith's airbrush-speckled collages zoom from a closeup of a pencil to Henry leaning over a kidney-shaped desk; thus, "zimulis" and "deski" enter the vocabulary. Henry goes on to describe being crowned "kuningas" of another planet and almost getting shot with a "blassa." A "Decoder" at the back of the book reveals that all 20 unfamiliar terms are either non-English (the Dutch "speelplaats" means "playground") or wordplay ("flying saucer" becomes "sighing flosser"). Contextual cues allow readers with no prior knowledge of Italian, Latvian or Polish to comprehend Henry P.'s hyperboles: "I jammed the razzo controls with my zimulis so I could land behind szkola and still be on time," says Henry, and Smith pictures a rocket console, a variety of dials and Henry's pencil. Amateur linguists will have a field day exploring this non-nonsense. All ages.
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