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  • Akiko and the Alpha Centauri 5000
  • Written by Mark Crilley
    Illustrated by Mark Crilley
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307510761
  • Our Price: $4.99
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Akiko and the Alpha Centauri 5000

Written by Mark CrilleyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Mark Crilley
Illustrated by Mark CrilleyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Mark Crilley


List Price: $4.99


On Sale: February 19, 2009
Pages: 176 | ISBN: 978-0-307-51076-1
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books
Akiko and the Alpha Centauri 5000 Cover

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Akiko and her crew–Spuckler Boach, Mr. Beeba, Poog, and Gax–are competing in an intergalactic race from one side of the universe to the other. Along the way they have to make it through the narrow passages of the Labyrinth of Lulla-ma-Waygo, the notorious Almost Black Hole of Luzbert-7, and the deadly Jaws of McVluddapuck. All Akiko wants to do is make it back to Earth in one piece!
But when Spuckler discovers that his old rival Bluggamin Streed is also in the race, winning becomes the most important thing. And Akiko quickly finds herself caught up in the competition. Who will go home with the celebrated Centauri Cup?

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter 1

My name is Akiko. This is the story of how I went from building a snowman to flying through a black hole to nearly getting crushed by the Jaws of--

Well, I don't want to give it all away.

Let's just say for now that some really weird stuff happened to me the other day. Stuff involving my friends from the planet Smoo, a big rusty spaceship named Boach's Bullet, and several tons of something green and smelly called grull.

See what I mean? Weird stuff.

I'll start with the snowman.

It was a freezing cold January morning, a Saturday. My best friend, Melissa, and I were playing in Middleton Park, just a few blocks from the apartment building where we both live. We were chucking snowballs at each other, making sorry-looking igloos, and just generally goofing around with the six or seven inches of snow that had fallen the night before.

"Middleton is nowhere," said Melissa. "When I grow up I'm moving to a big city. Where exciting stuff happens. Every day, all the time. And I'll tell everyone I meet: Stay away from Middleton. Unless you really like being bored."

"Oh, come on," I said. "It's not that bad."

Melissa chucked a snowball and we both watched it slide across the frozen duck pond. I threw one too, but it didn't go as far.

"Trust me, Akiko. I've been to Chicago and Milwaukee and Cincinnati. Those are real cities. Your problem is you've never been away from your own hometown."

(Melissa's problem is she starts too many sentences with "Your problem is.")

"I have too," I said.

"Where have you been?"

"I've been to places you've never even heard of."

"Such as?"

If only I could tell her: Smoo! Quilk! The castle of Alia Rellapor!


"Leamington?" She laughed and shook her head. "I've been to Leamington. It's even worse than Middleton." She threw another snowball. "When I get older I'm going to stay away from any place that ends with -ton."

"I like Leamington," I said. "My gramma lives there."

"You like everything," Melissa said. "That's your whole problem."

Then Melissa's mom called her from the top of a hill on the other side of the duck pond.

"Come on, 'Liss! Time to go!"

"But Mom," she said, "we're in the middle of something really important here."


"Count of ten: one . . . two . . ."

"Mom!" Melissa pleaded. She stretched it out until it sounded like Maaaah-um.

". . . three . . . four . . ."

"Gotta go." Melissa sighed, dropped the snowball she'd been making, and trotted off around the edge of the duck pond. I stood there and watched the puffs of breath trail off behind her.

"See ya, Melissa!"

"See ya!"

A minute later there was no one in the park but me.

I was about to head back home, but then I decided to make a snowman. We don't get that much snow in Middleton, so there are only so many chances for snowman making before it's suddenly March and the so-called snow is so gray and slushy you don't want your mittens going anywhere near it.

I had finished with the second big ball of snow--the snowman's belly--and was working on the third when I began to feel warm. Seriously warm. It was like I was being heated from inside or something. I unzipped my coat and loosened my scarf a little, but it didn't really help. I took off my mittens and stuffed them in my coat pockets.

That's when it started happening.

First my hand-knit winter hat disappeared. It sort of loosened itself from my head like it was, I don't know, letting go of me. And then it just vanished. By that point I was feeling downright feverish. I reached into my coat to loosen my scarf a little more and found that it had disappeared too.


Then my eyes went haywire. All of Middleton Park started to lose its color. The black tree trunks faded to gray and then to white, all the buildings turned white, and the sky turned white: I could hardly see anything but white, no matter what direction I turned.

There was a surge of heat from inside me, like a burst of flame right between my heart and my stomach.




A popping noise shot through my skull from one ear to the other, and when I looked down . . . I couldn't see my body anymore! Everything around me got whiter and whiter until I was surrounded by a million little white-hot suns and I had to shut my eyes and throw my hands over them and . . .


There was a terrific slamming sound, louder than anything I'd ever heard in my life.


A second sound, even louder. Then:

Total silence.


Except for a low, buzzing hum in my head.

I uncovered my eyes.

I was kneeling in the middle of a large gray square, smooth and glossy, but with scuff marks all over it like a well-used floor. Middleton Park was gone, replaced by a sea of blackness in all directions. Well, most of Middleton Park was gone, anyway. My now half-melted snowman was still right there in front of me, for some reason.

The humming slowly gave way to a loud rattling noise, like an old muffler in need of repair. There was a flicker of light, then all at once everything snapped into focus: I was in a small room cluttered with all sorts of strange machines and flashing orange lights. On one side of the room was a large glass windshield, beyond which lay a field of stars.

I was inside a spaceship.

"Wait! Look!" said a familiar voice just behind me. "That's her! She's coming through!"

"You're a lucky man, Beebs," said a second voice, just as familiar. "Let's hope her innards didn't get flipped upside down."

I spun around and found myself face to face with my Smoovian friends, Spuckler and Mr. Beeba. They were crouching just beyond the edge of the square, staring at me with wide eyes. Behind them to the left was Spuckler's rusty robot, Gax, and hovering above Gax was Poog in all his strange purple-round glory.

Mr. Beeba flinched and pointed behind me.

"Good heavens!" he cried. "She's not alone! We've picked up some sort of alien ice creature!"

"Don't worry, Beebs," said Spuckler, eyeing the unfinished snowman. "It ain't breathin'. I think the Trans-Moovulator musta killed it."

"What . . . ," I started.


I paused.

Took a deep breath.

"Where am I?"

From the Trade Paperback edition.
Mark Crilley

About Mark Crilley

Mark Crilley - Akiko and the Alpha Centauri 5000

Photo © Mary Moylan

Mark Crilley was raised in Detroit, Michigan. After graduating from Kalamazoo College, he traveled to Taiwan and Japan, where he taught English for nearly five years. It was during his stay in Japan that he created Akiko.

In 1998, Mark Crilley was named to Entertainment Weekly’s “It List” of the 100 most creative people in entertainment.


I had to draw pictures for a living or I’d go crazy . . .

I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to be an author or illustrator until I was 28 years old! I taught English in Taiwan and Japan for five years—and seriously considered spending the rest of my life overseas—before finally realizing I had to draw pictures for a living or I’d go crazy. At first I was writing mainly just to give myself something to illustrate. Only recently have I come to see myself as a ‘real’ author.

Ever since I discovered that there were people out there willing to pay me to make up stories and draw strange creatures all day, I knew there was no turning back. “This,” I thought, “is the job for me.” And I still think that, every day.

He taught me to push myself harder, to hold myself to a higher standard . . .

I was very fortunate to be among the last people to study under David Small, the 2001 Caldecott Medal Winner, back when he was still an art instructor at Kalamazoo College. In fact, I was there just after he’d completed Imogene’s Antlers and saw all the original artwork. David definitely was a huge influence on me as an illustrator. He taught me to push myself harder, to hold myself to a higher standard.

When I was growing up, all my favorite writers and illustrators could be found in one place: Mad magazine! Looking back, I think you can definitely see the influence. Still, my mother did make sure that I saw all the great children’s books, and I recall being especially wild about a lavishly illustrated edition of Pinocchio.

I’m one of those writers who believes in total spontaneity . . .

Just sit down and make it up as you go along. Of course, this doesn’t really fly in the world of children’s books, so I do have to plan my books out as best I can. Still, I think a lot of the really good ideas come unexpectedly, popping up out of the blue when you’re halfway through the story.

How can I make this story different?

I start with a general sense of the sort of story I want to tell—a journey into a mystical land, for instance—then ask myself the questions I need to answer to write the story: Who is the main character? How does he/she get to the mystical land? How can I make this story different from all the other stories that follow this pattern? The real trick is to get beyond the obvious ideas to the truly unusual ideas. This requires time, thought, and lots of long walks.

Akiko is mainly based on Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I wrote the first story while living in Japan, so I chose a common Japanese name—Akiko—as the name for my “Alice.”

Akiko has a knack for getting along with pretty much anyone, so I think the two of us would get on swimmingly. She would probably describe me as “a pretty nice guy, but he needs to get out more often.”

I hope there is a quiet theme in the Akiko novels about the important role a child plays . . .

I initially felt I was writing for a general audience: the sort of men, women, and children who read Calvin and Hobbes. Now I’ve read enough interviews with other children’s authors to realize we all think we’re writing for a general audience.

Truthfully, I don’t think too much about the age of the reader, more about the sort of reader I’m trying to reach: someone who likes imagining other worlds, going on adventures, laughing on one page and being frightened on the next.

I think there’s a natural “all ages groove” that writers can get into, and before long you’re doing it without even thinking.

Some days I’m convinced my books have no message whatsoever and are simply pure fluff from start to finish! Still, I hope there is a quiet theme in the Akiko novels about the important role a child plays in the world, and how, in many instances, a little kid has more sense than the adults surrounding her.


“[A] stylish debut.”—Publishers Weekly

“The action is fast-paced and nicely illustrated . . . and Crilley’s easy-reading, conversational style is appealing.”—Booklist

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