Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Andy McBean and the war of the worlds

Andy McBean and the war of the worlds

Dale Kutzera
Fiction
For ages 8 to 12
Salmon Bay Books, 2014   ISBN: 978-0692023921

A year ago Andy had a perfectly normal life. He played soccer, spent time with his friend Hector, and went to school. Then Andy got leukemia and for months his life changed in terrible ways. He spent a lot of time in hospital, lost all his hair, and suffered so much pain and misery that there were times when he really didn’t want to keep going.

   Now Andy is well again and is back in school. On that Monday before life on Earth changed forever, Andy walks through the forest to school with Hector, and as usual they play Zoink as they walk. When they get to school Reggie and his hoods bully Andy and when Andy fights back by hitting Reggie with his trombone, Reggie gets detention. Of course this means that Reggie is going to expect Andy to fight him after school. Andy is thrilled to be healthy and free again, but he wishes he did not have to deal with bullies like Reggie, and he wishes people would stop looking at him as if he is an animal in a zoo cage. He had cancer, so what? Big deal.

   As Andy, his parents and his little brother eat their dinner that evening they hear on the news that NASA has lost contact with the Mars Rover. Little do they know that the loss of the Rover is very significant indeed.

   After dinner Andy is in his room when meteors start to fall out of the sky. The power does out and cell phones and all other forms of communication stop working. Then one of the meteors lands in Andy’s neighborhood and after it rolls down the street leaving a trail of chaos behind it, it comes to a stop in front of Andy’s front porch.

   The next morning, while Andy is watching (still in his pajamas and his moose slippers), the meteor does something a meteor is not supposed to do. It opens up and a huge machine with three legs steps out. Inside the machine is a little being called Been’Tok, who is a Worker and who therefore follows the orders that the Guardians give him without question. Been’Tok reports that the bipeds on this planet are “clearly advanced” and the one he can see outside the “landing shell” must be some kind of warrior. After all, it is wearing shoes that have the horns of some kind of animal on them and everyone knows that warriors tend to wear such trophies. The Master feels that the bipeds are “insignificant” and orders Been’Tok to launch his Seeker as soon as possible so that he can capture the “warrior” with the horned shoes.

   The Seeker, the three legged machine that Andy sees come out of the meteor, then begins to pursue Andy. Soldiers are there and they shoot at the Seeker, but their bullets seem to have no impact on the huge machine. Everyone runs. Andy’s father, Martin, decides to get his family as far away from the Seeker as he can and soon they are racing away from their neighborhood in Martin’s pickup truck. Martin decides to take refuge in a tunnel, when the Seeker cannot get to them, but just as he reaches the mouth of the tunnel, Andy, who is sitting in the pickup bed, is thrown clear.

   Separated from his family and not knowing what else to do, Andy heads home and he manages to get back to his neighborhood in one piece. When he gets there he finds that everyone is gone except for a girl called Charlie who has just moved to the area. Andy rescues Charlie from her damaged house, which is when another Seeker appears on the scene. Long tentacles hanging from the machine are seeking out humans to add to the cage of captives that is attached to the machine’s belly. Andy and Charlie are able to avoid getting caught but others are not so lucky.

   What Andy does not know is that a little alien called Been’Tok is in the Grabber turret of the Seeker and when he sees Andy, “the Warrior,” he does not report his find to the Masters. For the first time in his life he defies the rules. For some reason he feels that it is right not to capture this biped; that is right for him, Been’Tok the Worker, to do something that is not an order.

   In this captivating story, which was inspired by H.G. Wells’ book War of the Worlds,  we get to experience an alien invasion and we also see how two very different beings, a human and an alien, are changed by their encounter. Andy is a cancer survivor who cannot seem to free himself from being “cancer boy,” and Been’Tok is a slave who simply wants to be allowed to experience life, and to learn. Together they become a force for good and they show the world, alien and human alike, that anyone can become a hero. 

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