When Bud catches the wrong school bus, he finds himself not heading down the road to his first day at his new elementary school, but hurtling across the galaxy on his way to Cosmos Academy. As an unwitting representative of the most feared (if least understood) species in the galaxy, Bud finds himself in need of a cover story before he even gets off the bus. Fortunately, his new friend Gort is able to pull one together. Unfortunately, said cover story involves an assumed expertise at ZeroBall, a sport Bud’s never heard of, let alone played. Fortunately, ZeroBall is basically zero-gravity basketball. Unfortunately, watching basketball for hours at home does not translate to skill on the court, and it turns out that getting into the tournament final is the best chance Bud has of getting home. Worse, in the course of trying to find a way into the tournament, Bud and Gort discover a plot to rid the galaxy once and for all of the vague menace that is Earth. It’s up to Bud, Gort, and the rest of their ZeroBall team to save the world and, hopefully, get Bud back on it.
With lots of ups and downs, a bit of mystery, and plenty of humour, Mark Fearing tells a story that will keep middle grade (and older!) readers engaged. The surprise ending isn’t entirely unexpected, but it does wrap things up in a satisfying way. The art is colourful and full of action, with the portrayal of the various alien species particularly helpful in keeping straight the fairly complex politics of Fearing’s imagined galaxy. Recommended for anyone who enjoys a good “kids save the day” story.
Find a great teaching guide on the publisher’s website.