Adam Rex is one of the craziest writers in children’s books.
He has a tickle-your-funny-bone sense of humor, flavored with a bit of the ridiculous.
His humor shines in picture books and middle grade novels, but my all time favorite was The True Meaning of Smekday (book from Disney-Hyperion and audio from Listening Library, 10 hours, 38 minutes, read by Bahni Turpin).
Rex’s work is amazing, but it is incredibly well matched by Bahni Turpin who is the finest alien voice I’ve ever heard. The story is a first person narrative told by Gratuity (Tip) Tucci who, at 11, saves the world from aliens with the help of her Boov friend J.Lo. Dreamworks has turned this book into an animated film titled “Home” which was released at the end of March. If it’s even close to the book, it’s a must-see!
Meanwhile, just released is the sequel, Smek for President! (book from Disney-Hyperion, audio from Listening Library, approximately 6 hours). In terms of the book, Adam Rex again shows his perfect sense of timing, both in his text and the interspersing of drawings. And happily for devoted listeners, Bahni Turpin is reading again. This sequel does not disappoint, either in book or audio form. It is filled with the same wit, playfulness and invention as well as the same excellent narration.
Very quickly, the story clues you in to the meaningful events of the prequel and there’s quick entry into the present. J Lo and Tip may have saved the world, but two years later, J Lo still lives on Earth because he fears being ostracized in his own society. Besides life is pretty nice in the Poconos where they’ve relocated after they recieved a “slush fund” after General Motors checked out their flying car, Slushious.
Yes Jo Lo enjoys his deodorant and chlorine sandwiches, but he’s resentful that the humans call him “That alien” for “I am already used to them and there are manys more of them to get used to.” There is the same charming ungrammatical, vocabulary-challenged Boov speech that is oh-so-readable. Turpin completes these with well-timed clicks.
One of the ways Turpin excels is the fast-moving dialogue between Tip and J Lo. J Lo complains that he has grown these humans “a perfectly good new community center out of cornstarch.” Tip has to remind him that it melted in the rain and “all those cub scouts…” She leaves room for the readers to imagine the results and notices, with her typical sarcasm, that J Lo tries to shrug off her comment but “he doesn’t really have the shoulders for it.” Police and a young woman show up to complain about J Lo’s attack of her boots. Tip notices they are “mangy looking boots that bear a strong resemblance to J Lo’s dental pattern.” And J Lo explains —“I thought they were ankle wolves. Why else would a person wear fur with short pants.”
Besides Tip, “a city girl,” is bored. So soon the two are off to Saturn and New Boovworld to clear J Lo’s name. Almost immediately J Lo is labeled “the Squealer” and Captain Smek throws him in jail. And Tip? She’s left in a garbage pit with a new Boov friend Fun Size, the junk dealer and is followed around by a bubble-blowing billboard she calls Bill. And she’s confused. How can she not be when she complements Fun Size’s hat and he responds, “it keeps my head in” and minutes later tells her that she has to “fall up” through the garbage pipes to escape and where exactly does she sit on the hoverbutt when Boov butts seem to be located in a different place.
It was hard enough to save the world, but Boovian politics provide a whole new set of problems—and satire and slapstick and word play make for laugh-out-loud humor, adventure and action, and a deepening of the intergalactic relationship of J Lo and Tip.