Hyperion Books for Children, 2007.
hardcover, 425 pages.
It all starts with a school essay. When twelve-year-old Gratuity (“Tip”) Tucci is assigned to write five pages on “The True Meaning of Smekday” for the National Time Capsule contest, she’s not sure where to begin. When her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended on the Earth and the aliens–called Boov–abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it “Smekland” (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod?
In any case, Gratuity’s story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo.; a futile journey south to find Gratuity’s mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom; a cross-country road trip in a hovercar called Slushious; and an outrageous plan to save the Earth from yet another alien invasion.
Fully illustrated with “photos,” drawings, newspaper clippings, and comics sequences, this is a hilarious, perceptive, genre-bending novel by a remarkable
newtalent. ~Publisher’s Comments.
“BOOB is an…acronym.” [...] “Brotherhood Organized against Oppressive Boov. It stands for that.”
“Shouldn’t it be B-O-A-O-B, then?”
“We really wanted it to be BOOB,” said Marcos, and at the younger boys giggled again. (126)
“Waitaminute,” I said. “BOOB?”
“It’s the name of our club,” said boy number two.
“Are you guys from Florida or something?”
“No,” said Beardo. “Why?”
Both boys shouted over each other.
“It stands for–”
“Backyard telescope Ob…Observation of–”
“Of Occupations by Boov!”
“I don’t know why I ask,” I said, “but shouldn’t your acronym be like, BTOOB or something?”
“BOOB sounds better,” they said.
Boys. Honestly. (225)
The True Meaning of Smekday has been an amusing personal companion to our evening family read-aloud of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Adam Rex is not as ridiculously funny as Mr. Adams but they’ve a similar gift for timing with their absurdities and outright silliness–nor are their criticism apologetically perpetrated on the sly; although Rex a bit more transparent with his.
I had a terrible thought. I thought about the people in concentration camps in World War II, told by Nazi soldiers to take showers, and the showerheads that didn’t work, and the poison gas that tumbled slowly through vents until every last one was dead. And then I thought about everyone two days ago, rushing to line up for those rocketpods. (92)
The True Meaning of Smekday would be a fun read while studying American History. Anything the aliens (whether Boov or Nimrog) are capable of, humankind has already done. Their actions are not unfamiliar, nor are their histories. The evolution of the Boov as drawn by J.Lo (the Boov deuteragonist) however funny is quite familiar (irreverently so for some–another likeness to Douglas Adams*). The behavioral trajectories are haunting, as we’ve seen most, if not all, of them played out over and over. Indeed, knowledge of historical events and their fall-outs create an incredible tension in the story.
“Captain Smek himself appeared on television for an official speech to humankind. (He didn’t call us humankind, of course. He called us the Noble Savages of Earth.)
“And so now I generously grant you Human Preserves–gifts of land that will be for humans forever, never to be taken away again, now.” (63)
“It’s mostly white folks living on the reservation now.”
I frowned. “And the Indians are okay with this?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well…it was a reservation,” I said. “It was land we promised to the Native Americans. Forever.”
Mitch looked at me like I was speaking in tongues. But…we needed it,” he said. (338)
“Before we came, Captain Smek and the HighBoovs telled us that the humans needed us. That the humans were just like the animals, and that we could to make them better. Teach to them. We were told the humans were nasty and backwards. It…it is what we thought.” (149-150)
“Gorg,” I repeated. “There was only one Nimrog named Grog.”
“By this time, yes. Beforethen there were many Nimrogs named Gorg. Gorg was a popular boy name, like Ethel.”
I was aching to mention that Ethel was neither popular nor a boy’s name, but I felt we were really getting somewhere.” (196)
*Being positively compared to Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker Guide stories can only be one of the best things ever, by the way. If you haven’t read the stories, please remedy immediately.