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  • Akiko on the Planet Smoo
  • Written by Mark Crilley
    Illustrated by Mark Crilley
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780440416487
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  • Akiko on the Planet Smoo
  • Written by Mark Crilley
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780440418627
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Akiko on the Planet Smoo

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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: $6.99


On Sale: November 13, 2001
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-440-41862-7
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books
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When fourth grader Akiko finds a spacecraft hovering outside her window one night, she begins the adventure of a lifetime. She is whisked off to the planet Smoo to lead a team searching for the King of Smoo’s kidnapped son. Akiko the head of a rescue mission? She’s afraid to be on the school’s safety patrol! So begins the adventures of Akiko, wherein she meets her team — Spuckler Boach, Gax, Poog, and Mr. Beeba — and sets off on a journey across Smoo to find a prince and become a leader.


Chapter 1

My name is Akiko. This is the story of the adventure I had a few months ago when I went to the planet Smoo. I know it's kind of hard to believe, but it really did happen. I swear.

I'd better go back to the beginning: the day I got the letter.

It was a warm, sunny day. There were only about five weeks left before summer vacation, and kids at school were already itching to get out. Everybody was talking about how they'd be going to camp, or some really cool amusement park, or whatever. Me, I knew I'd be staying right here in Middleton all summer, which was just fine by me. My dad works at a company where they hardly ever get long vacations, so my mom and I have kind of gotten used to it.

Anyway, it was after school and my best friend, Melissa, and I had just walked home together as always. Most of the other kids get picked up by their parents or take the bus, but Melissa and I live close enough to walk to school every day. We both live just a few blocks away in this big apartment building that must have been built about a hundred years ago. Actually I think it used to be an office building or something, but then somebody cleaned it up and turned it into this fancy new apartment building. It's all red bricks and tall windows, with a big black fire escape in the back. My parents say they'd rather live somewhere out in the suburbs, but my dad has to be near his office downtown.

Melissa lives on the sixth floor but she usually comes up with me to the seventeenth floor after school. She's got three younger brothers and has to share her bedroom with one of them, so she doesn't get a whole lot of privacy. I'm an only child and I've got a pretty big bedroom all to myself, so that's where Melissa and I spend a lot of our time.

On that day we were in my room as usual, listening to the radio and trying our best to make some decent card houses. Melissa was telling me how cool it would be if I became the new captain of the fourth-grade safety patrol.

"Come on, Akiko, it'll be good for you," she said. "I practically promised Mrs. Miller that you'd do it."

"Melissa, why can't somebody else be in charge of the safety patrol?" I replied. "I'm no good at that kind of stuff. Remember what happened when Mrs. Antwerp gave me the lead role in the Christmas show?"

Melissa usually knows how to make me feel better about things, but even she had to admit last year's Christmas show was a big disaster.

"That was different, Akiko," she insisted. "Mrs. Antwerp had no idea you were going to get stage fright like that."

"It was worse than stage fright, Melissa," I said. "I can't believe I actually forgot the words to 'Jingle Bells.'"

"This isn't the Christmas show," she said. "You don't have to memorize any words to be in charge of the

safety patrol." She was carefully beginning the third floor of a very ambitious card house she'd been working on for about half an hour.

"Why can't I just be a member of the safety patrol?" I asked her.

"Because Mrs. Miller needs a leader," she said. "I'd do it, but I'm already in charge of the softball team."

And I knew Melissa meant it, too. She'd be in charge of everything at school if she could. Me, I prefer to let someone else be the boss. Sure, there are times when I wish I could be the one who makes all the decisions and tells everybody else what to do. I just don't want to be the one who gets in trouble when everything goes wrong.

"Besides," Melissa continued, "it would be a great way for you to meet Brendan Fitzpatrick. He's in charge of the boys' safety patrol." One thing about Melissa: No matter what kind of conversation you have with her, one way or another you end up talking about boys.

"What makes you so sure I want to meet Brendan Fitzpatrick?" The card house I'd been working on had completely collapsed, and I was trying to decide whether it was worth the trouble to start a new one.

"Trust me, Akiko," she said with a big grin, "everyone wants to meet Brendan Fitzpatrick."

"I don't even like him," I said, becoming even more anxious to change the subject.

"How can you not like him?" she asked, genuinely puzzled. "He's one of the top five cute guys in the fourth grade."

"I can't believe you actually have a list of who's cute and who isn't."
Mark Crilley

About Mark Crilley

Mark Crilley - Akiko on the Planet Smoo

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


"[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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