A F Harrold (text), Joe Todd-Stanton (illus.), Greta Zargo and the Death Robots from Outer Space, Bloomsbury, 7 Sept 2017, 256pp., $12.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781408869475
Greta Zargo, an eleven-year-old orphan who lives by herself, is trying to find out who’s responsible for stealing cakes in Upper Lowerbridge. Meanwhile alien robots intent on creating an encyclopaedia of the universe are heading for Earth, ready to obliterate it completely—once they have permission. While on the case, intrepid reporter Greta, thanks to a spelling mistake and a talking parrot, inadvertently becomes responsible for the fate of planet Earth.
Full of wit and humour the story clacks along at a satisfying pace. I love how it includes a mystery as well as a side tale that is somewhat cautionary and very funny. The sections with the robots taking over planets are hilarious and Greta is very much a modern day Pippi Longstocking.
The book has a generous spattering of black and white pictures and diagrams by Joe Todd-Stanton. The pictures really help enhance the story, make it more appealing and accessible to readers and give the story breathing space. Another quirky feature of this book is footnotes written sideways down the page which will have kids turning the book around and adds to the sense of fun.
The subtle suggestion of difference in this book is also very well done. Greta is quirky, focused and approaches friendships differently to most girls her age and the robots—being robots – are super literal when asking questions and take the respondent’s flippant or exasperated response literally too. Because of this, the book could be used to start a conversation about the hidden depths of human conversation and how meaning can sometimes be quite different to what has actually been said, a concept that is sometimes tricky for kids of this age to understand.
Greta Zargo and the Death Robots from Outer Space is a whimsical, entertaining read. It sits at the upper end of the junior fiction titles and would suit a competent 7-8 year-old or a nine to ten year old reader. Greta is a protagonist that both boys and girls will relate to. Kids who like Anh Do’s WeirDo and Diary of a Wimpy Kid are sure to love this one too.
Reviewed by Renee Mihulka