Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass

Image from
Little, Brown, and Company, 2013

Joss, the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe, is pretty sure he has the lamest job of all his brothers. Ty works in the Scenery and Design Department of the Afterlives, Ash oversees species creation, and Greyden inspires artists on planets across the universe. Joss delivers pies, which is just not fair. Sure, the pies hold the secret to the universe, but he doesn't make them, he just delivers them. Joss lives in The Realms, kind of like the Headquarters of the Universe, which is overseen by the PTB (The Powers That Be). When he's not at school or making deliveries he's hanging out with his best friend Kal until the day Kal disappears. Due to an unfortunate incident, Kal is replaced with a human girl from Earth, the outspoken and spunky Annika. Now it’s up to Joss to figure out how to get Annika back home and get his best friend back. Oh, yeah, and recreate an exact replica of Earth, which has been erased from space and time.

This humorous, yet thought-provoking story is told from Joss’ point of view. A short prologue entitled, “What You Need to Know” introduces readers to the concept of dark matter and Mass’s fictional place, The Realms. Chapters begin with quotes from famous astronomers, physicists, writers, and philosophers. These quotes bring up ideas that are further explored in the chapter, usually in a humorous, often ironic manner. Mass is able to convey big ideas about space and time in kid-friendly and hilarious terms without ever patronizing or preaching to young readers. Although space and time are a pivotal part of the plot, what makes the story interesting is Joss’ intense loyalty to his friends and his willingness to do anything to be a good friend. Even though only one character in the book is a human, Mass’ main characters are highly relatable and likable. Annika is something of a livewire, which allows Mass to take the story in exciting directions that obedient Joss would never imagine. A great fiction recommendation for a kid who usually likes reading non-fiction.

Read the beginning of the book to find out more about The Realms.

*Use this book as part of a unit on outer space. Have each student pick one of the quotes in the book and research its author. Carl Sagan has a cameo in the book, so kids maybe interested in learning more about him as well.

*Several species from fictional planets are mentioned in the book. Ask kids to draw their version of these species or to create their own. Extend this art activity into writing by having kids write a short paragraph describing their creature and its home planet.

*This is a great title to feature around Pi Day (March 14). Continue the celebration by making and/or eating pies!

Boom! by Mark Haddon
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

*More books by Wendy Mass:

Age 9+ / Grade 4+


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