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  • Akiko: Pieces of Gax
  • Written by Mark Crilley
    Illustrated by Mark Crilley
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307510785
  • Our Price: $5.99
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Akiko: Pieces of Gax

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: $5.99


On Sale: June 24, 2009
Pages: 224 | ISBN: 978-0-307-51078-5
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
Akiko: Pieces of Gax Cover

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Akiko's always prepared for something out of this world, but when she goes on a pleasure trip to Gollarondo with Poog, Mr. Beeba, Spuckler Boach, and Gax she can barely believe her eyes--Gollarondo is a city that was built completely upside down! Forget sight-seeing. All Akiko wants to do is keep both feet on the ground.

Which is not so easy. Almost as soon as the gang arrives Spuckler's robot Gax accidentally flies off one of Gollarondo's balconies and into the Moonguzzit Sea below. Good news: He survived the fall. Bad news: Anything and everything that falls from Gollarondo is automatically the property of Nugg von Hoffelhiff--the ruler of the seas beneath the city.

By the time Akiko and her crew are able to gain an audience with Nugg, he has sold Gax to others. What's worse, he actually broke Gax down into spare parts to maximize his profits! It's up to Akiko and the gang to retrieve the pieces of Gax before they are spread far and wide across the Moonguzzit Sea. But the people who bought the parts run the gamut from off the wall to downright villainous, so saving Gax's neck (and body and wheels) may turn out to be Akiko's most dangerous mission yet.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter 1

My name is Akiko. You know how whenever something really amazing happens to you, you just can't wait to tell all your friends about it? And how sometimes the amazing thing that happened to you is so incredible and mind-blowing that even after you've told your friends about it they think you made the whole thing up? And how sometimes you don't even dare to tell any of your friends about the amazing thing that happened to you because it all took place while you were on another planet in a distant galaxy, surrounded by aliens and robots and exploding volcanoes and stuff, and if you were foolhardy enough to even begin to tell your friends a word of it, they would decide then and there that you are completely and irreversibly out of your mind?

Don't you hate that?

Well, hey, right now I don't care whether people who read this think I'm making it up. If they think I'm a few cards short of a full deck, they can go right ahead and think that. My only concern is to put all this stuff down on paper, in the exact order it happened, and to get the details right. Because if I don't write it down and I end up forgetting some of it after a while, that really would make me crazy.

Here's what you need to know:

1. I'm an ordinary sixth grader. A human being, I swear.

2. A few years back I became friends with a bunch of space people from a planet called Smoo.

3. Since then, every few months or so, these friends of mine come to Earth and say they need to take me into outer space because . . . well, they've always got one excuse or another, and it always sounds pretty reasonable at the time.

All right. Now I can tell the story.

When it comes to meeting up with me on Earth, my friends from Smoo have made some pretty weird entrances over the years: appearing in rocket ships disguised as police cars, intergalactic transit systems on shopping mall rooftops, you name it. But the way they showed up this last time really raised the bar in terms of sheer ridiculousness.

I was on vacation with my mom and dad. We were staying at my aunt Lucille's house in Minnesota. (Aunt Lucille, who has an unexplainable fondness for big floppy hats and bright orange lipstick, has made some pretty weird entrances of her own over the years, but that's a different story.) We'd been there for a couple of days, and my cousin Earl had grabbed his fishing poles and taken me down to Wacahoota Creek to see if we could catch anything "big enough to stick in the bathtub and scare the bejeezies outta Mom." Me, I wasn't sure I wanted to see Aunt Lucille any more freaked out than she already was on a day-to-day basis. But hey, it was my third day in the backwoods of Minnesota, and my entertainment options--even my reasons for staying awake--were severely limited.

So there I was with Cousin Earl, sitting at the end of a mossy makeshift dock with a fishing pole in my hands, staring down into the brown-black waters of Wacahoota Creek. In spite of Earl's claim that this spot was "world famous" as the best fishing hole in Putnam County, we'd caught nothing but dead leaves and, in what was possibly the low point of the vacation so far, a pair of discarded diapers from somewhere upstream.

"That reminds me of a funny story," Earl said, tossing the diapers as far as he could back upstream (thereby all but guaranteeing that we would catch them again a few minutes later). "This one's a real gut buster."

He went to his tackle box and began noisily rummaging through it. "You know what a gut buster is, right?" Earl had an amazing ability to tell "funny stories" that weren't funny and--this takes talent--really weren't even stories. They started at point A, moved on to point G, and then just sort of petered out somewhere in the middle of an entirely different alphabet.

Without waiting for me to either confirm or deny that I knew what a gut buster was, Earl launched into his diaper-related tale. I stopped listening by around the third rambling sentence.

Then, to my shock, I actually felt something tugging on my line.

"Hey, Earl . . . ," I said, then nearly bit my tongue off trying to stop myself midsentence. There, about six inches below the surface of Wacahoota Creek, was a small glass dome, the kind you would see at the top of a deep-sea submersible on the Discovery Channel. Through the dome, which was attached to a submarine-like vessel, I saw the face of none other than Spuckler Boach, grinning from ear to ear and giving me an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Behind Spuckler, squeezing in to make sure I'd see him, was a cheerful but panicky-looking Mr. Beeba.

I blinked in disbelief: my friends from Smoo had somehow found their way into the best fishing hole in Putnam County and were inches from rising to the surface and scaring the bejeezies out of my cousin Earl.

I motioned furiously to Spuckler and Mr. Beeba to stay underwater.

"What's up?" said Earl, still rummaging through his tackle box. "Getting crawdad nibbles again?"

"No!" I said a little too loudly, setting my fishing pole on the edge of the dock. "I mean, um . . ." I tried desperately to come up with a good reason for having said "Hey, Earl" two seconds earlier, one that wouldn't encourage him to come back over. The interstellar submarine had not broken the surface of Wacahoota Creek, but if Earl joined me on my side of the dock, he'd see it as plainly as I did. "Could, could, could you go back and repeat that last part of the story? It was, uh, so funny I gotta hear it again."

Earl turned his face in my direction, so pleased with my sudden appreciation of his genius for storytelling that he failed to notice I'd broken into a sweat. "Which part? The part about the bald-headed squirrel or the part about surfer dude from Saskatoon?" I briefly marveled at the fact that these two topics had not only nothing to do with each other but also nothing whatsoever to do with diapers. "Um, both. You should be a stand-up comedian, Earl, I swear."

Earl chuckled, cleaning his glasses with the hem of his T-shirt. "You are not the first person to say that."

The second Earl turned back to his tackle box, I began motioning to Spuckler that he should steer their submarine as far as he could downstream and that I would catch up with them in--I pointed to an imaginary wristwatch and splayed all my fingers two times--twenty minutes.

From the Hardcover edition.
Mark Crilley

About Mark Crilley

Mark Crilley - Akiko: Pieces of Gax

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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