Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence, 192 pp, RL 4

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence is an extraordinary story of friendship, scout camp and competition that just happens to take place in outer space. But it begins on Earth with Avani Patel, new kid in town who loves rodeo and country music, unlike the girls in the Flower Scouts troop her father forced her to join. They love talking about boys, the heartthrob Chaz Wunderlip and makeup. Things take a sharp turn when, somewhere in space, Mabel is finishing up her homework. But, instead of teleporting a newt, she mistakenly zaps a "new kid."

Avani and Mabel become fast friends, and soon Avani gets her father's permission to go to scout camp, but not the camp he thinks. Instead of Flower Scout camp, Avani and Mabel head to Star Scout camp where she makes enemies straight away when she steps on the tail of a methane breather, or, as Avani mistakenly calls them, "toot breathers."

At Camp Andromeda, the rivalry between the oxygen breathers and the methane breathers heats up and Avani makes a misstep that almost gets her sent home from camp. But, the benevolent and massive alien Franny and Greg, her three-eyed, mustachioed Assistant Master Scout, agree to let the two groups compete for the most badges by the end of the week, the loser agreeing to head home. It turns out that, while all creatures are invited to send their young to Camp Andromeda, Earthlings have never proven themselves worthy of attending camp and becoming a Star Scout.

Mike Lawrence's illustrations are stellar. His characters are detailed and painted with a rich, moody palette. Their expressions, whether they have two eyes and a fringe of dark bangs like Avani or little eyes and a parrot-y beak, are immediate and engaging. Lawrence's world building is superb! In the 21st century, we may feel like we have a pretty good idea of what space stations and aliens look like by now, Lawrence brings creativity and surprise to this very funny novel of standing out and fitting in. It's also very, very cool that the main character is an Indian American, and a girl at that!

Whether Star Scouts is the first in a series or a stand alone, Mike Lawrence is a graphic novelist I will look for on the shelves from now on!

Source: Review Copy

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