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  • Akiko and the Journey to Toog
  • Written by Mark Crilley
    Illustrated by Mark Crilley
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307510778
  • Our Price: $4.99
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Akiko and the Journey to Toog

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: March 12, 2009
Pages: 192 | ISBN: 978-0-307-51077-8
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books
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“Poog’s in trouble.” Just three simple words, but they’re enough to launch fifth-grade Akiko and the rest of her crew—Spuckler Boach, Mr. Beeba, and Gax—on their next mission. And it just might be their most important mission yet: To save the planet Toog, home of their good friend Poog.

Someone’s out to destroy Toog, and only Akiko and the gang can stop them. But first they have to escape from a Toogolian jail cell, zoom through a barrage of exploding drobe mines, and enlist the help of Spuckler’s old friend Fluggly Ragstubble—who’s anything but helpful. The clock is ticking and every second counts. Will they win the race against time and save Poog’s home planet?

From the Hardcover edition.



My name is Akiko. I’m a pretty average fifth grader in a pretty average town that’s right in the middle of a pretty average part of the country. My life is for the most part extremely dull. For the most part. It’s the least part that’s always getting me into trouble. The part that has to do with me being taken off to other galaxies, battling strange aliens, piloting rocket ships, and, on occasion, eating in intergalactic fast-food restaurants.

People are always telling me not to exaggerate. Which bugs me because I never do. It’s just that the things that happen to me tend to happen in a pretty big way. So please don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the story I’m going to tell you right now is basically about the end of the world. Well, the end of a world, anyway. Or a world that nearly came to an end. Very nearly.

Maybe I’d better just tell the story.

It all started on my way home from school.

I had just gone into Chuck’s. Chuck’s is this convenience store about three blocks from Middleton Elementary. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it has the biggest supply of bubble gum in town. All the usual gums, of course, but the rare stuff too: Arkey Malarkey’s Rain-Bo Day-Glo Sparkle Gum. Captain Zack’s Holy Mackerel Rub-A-Dubble Gum. Even Abe & Mabel’s Pop-N-Ploppin Super-Supple Bupple-Gum (That’s right: Bupple). The gum I bought that day was something I’d never tried before. It was called Dr. Yubble’s Ooey-Gooey Double-Trouble Bubble Gum.

I gave Chuck his money and got my nickel in change. Then I stepped out onto the corner, pulled out a piece of gum, unwrapped it, popped it in my mouth, and chewed.

So was it double trouble?

Not really. It was gooey. And ooey. Definitely ooey. But to call it trouble? I don’t know. That’s going too far.

Oh well, I thought. At least it’s ooey. That’s hard to come by in a gum.

So there I was, chewing gum, standing on the corner of Wabash and Fifth. The light changed and I began to cross the street. But before I got even halfway . . .


A siren! I spun around and found a black-and-white car barreling down the street at me, its siren blasting, its tires weaving back and forth. It squealed to a halt just inches from my legs.

They’re pulling me over? For what?

I looked around to see if anyone was watching; the last thing I needed was a bunch of gawkers crowding in to see what was going on. I was lucky. The only witnesses were a grandma and her cat peering down from a third-story window across the street, and a grocer, half a block away, squinting from the shade of his awning.

I turned back to face the patrol car. I’d never been so close to one before. The words MIDDLETON POLICE were painted on the hood, black on white. On the roof of the car was not one but eight flashing lights, each spinning and strobing a different color. Smoke billowed out in all directions, delivering a stink like an airport runway, only worse.

This was one weird police car.

The siren stopped.


A door popped open in the middle of the hood, and out came a small mechanized megaphone. It could have come from a sci-fi movie, except it looked more like a sixth grader’s homemade science project. It rose into a position between me and the windshield and rotated until it was pointed directly at my head.

A crackle of static, then:

“Please step over to the door of the vehicle, Aki—”

A pause.

“—er, little girl.”

I took a few steps toward the driver’s side of the car.

Aki—? Whoever was manning that megaphone had started to say my name. And he sure didn’t sound like a policeman. He sounded an awful lot like . . .

“Not that door.” A cough. “The other one.”

I stopped in my tracks, reversed direction, and walked to the passenger’s side of the car. There was a muffled whump and all the lights on the roof went out. Then they flashed on again. Finally there was a louder whump and they went out for good.

This was not the Middleton Police.

The passenger-seat window went down, and there before me was Mr. Beeba. He was dressed in his usual brown space suit and oversized yellow gloves but was wearing dark glasses for some reason.

“Quickly, Akiko!” he whispered, the words coming from both his mouth and the megaphone. “Into the backseat!”

“Shut off the dagnabbed speaker thing, will ya, Beebs?” Spuckler Boach was at the wheel, unshaven chin, scraggly blue hair, and all. “You’re whisperin’ to the whole dang neighborhood!” Mr. Beeba twisted a knob on the dashboard and with great effort managed to get the megaphone switched off and back under the hood. Through the open window I could just make out the silhouette of Gax in the backseat, his robot head quivering nervously on his long, spindly neck.

“HELLO, MA’AM,” he said.

“Quickly!” Mr. Beeba said again, this time without the echo of the megaphone.

It’s funny. Seeing my friends from the planet Smoo hiding in a police car was one of the silliest things I’d ever laid eyes on. They just looked so ridiculous. But something told me—the expressions on their faces,
mostly—that this was no laughing matter.

Please, Akiko.” Mr. Beeba’s brow was furrowed into several chunky wrinkles. “Time is of the essence. We’ll explain later.”

These guys. They always explained later.

“Now, hang on a second,” I said. “This, uh . . .” I waved a hand in front of me. “This isn’t a real police car.”

Mr. Beeba adjusted his dark glasses. “It’s not only a police car, no.”

I narrowed my eyes.

“It’s a spaceship, isn’t it?”

He and Spuckler both nodded.

I took another long look at the boxy black-and-white car parked in front of me. It was hard to believe this thing had just rocketed through a half-dozen distant galaxies before landing near the corner of Wabash and Fifth.

“There ain’t no time for chitchat, ’Kiko,” Spuckler said, pulling a knob that popped open the back door on my side of the car. “Trust me, you gotta come with us. Right now.”

I looked across the street and down the block. Both grandma and cat had gone inside their apartment, and the grocer was busily rearranging a pyramid of grapefruits with his back turned to me. No one would notice a thing. But . . .

“Guys, guys, guys. We’ve got to make some rules here. This whole zooming-into-Middleton-c’mon-Akiko-let’s-go thing is really starting to get on my nerves.”

“It’s Poog,” Mr. Beeba said.

Poog. I leaned over to get a better view of the car’s interior. My round, purple floating friend was nowhere to be seen. “He’s in trouble.” Mr. Beeba took off his dark glasses, revealing panicked eyes. “Grave, grave trouble.”

From the Hardcover edition.
Mark Crilley

About Mark Crilley

Mark Crilley - Akiko and the Journey to Toog

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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