The Blurb On The Back:
Chloe’s having a bad day.
First she stubbed her toe. Now she’s being followed by an alien. It can only get better, right? WRONG.
Mylan’s travelling the universe, looking for someone having a bad day, to help them.
But after Mylan makes a TINY mistake, suddenly earth is about to be ‘recycled’. Chloe and Dylan must save the planet!
Throw in a swanky spaceship, a grumpy queen of the universe and some technology that could go haywire at any moment … and you have an amazing INTERGALACTIC ADVENTURE!
THE WORST DAY EVER! was released in the United Kingdom on 6th January 2022. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
Mylan Bletzleburger is a 345-year-old, seven foot tall, electric blue alien with three eyes and fabulous hair from the planet Empathia where his parents are the King and Queen. Everyone on the planet Empathia can feel the emotions of other people. As a result it’s a wonderful place to live because Mylan’s parents have worked hard to make sure that everyone gets on with each other and no one tries to cause pain to anyone else and most importantly of all, no one ever needs or wants to leave …
Well, no one except the King and Queen who toured the universe before Mylan was born. They’ve told him bits and bobs about it, and he enjoyed hearing their stories of the beautiful little green and blue planet called Mylan that they named him after, to their meeting with the actual Queen of the Universe, Queen Tanka Tanka Woo Woo, who makes sure that everything is peaceful and working as it should with the help of her super dooper Vansarian Tech and as a result, everyone is as happy as the people of Empathia.
Curious about the universe, Mylan built his own spaceship to see it for himself and maybe even bump into Queen Tanka Tanka Woo Woo and find out how she makes her own hair look so epically gorgeous and how her Vansarian Tech works. But what he discovers is very, very different to what his parents told him. Far from all being tickety boo, people across the universe are all having very bad days indeed. Mylan is horrified by all the pain and negative emotions that he can sense from them but worse is that he’s now aware that his own parents were lying to to the entire planet!
Determined to show his fellow Empathians the truth, he decides to go to different planets and record all the bad days he sees and feels there. But it’s difficult to be passive in the face of such misery, which is why he later decided to focus on one inhabitant and try to make things better for them. The only problem is that the more he tries to help, the worse things get for the person he’s “helping”.
And then he arrives on Planet Mylan, which is at least as beautiful as his parents told him, but unfortunately also full of people who are having bad days. This includes Chloe, a young school girl whose day gets off to a rotten start when she manages to stub both her toes but is soon going to get infinitely worse when Mylan decides to help her out and accidentally ensures that the planet gets scheduled for recycling …
James Bishop’s funny science fiction book for readers aged 7+ has a great emphasis on empathy and wanting to help (even if you’re not great at it!) and the kind of poo jokes that younger readers will enjoy while Fay Austin’s jolly illustrations riff nicely on Bishop’s ideas. However the humour is quite forced at times and a little over-constructed and as a result, it didn’t quite work for me, although I’d check out Bishop’s other books.
There are some really interesting ideas in this book. It’s not often you run across a humour book that uses empathy as its central theme and for all that Mylan is a bit of a bumbler who makes things worse, I did enjoy the fact that he’s someone who’s very keen to try and help because he hates seeing people unhappy. Bishop has done a good job of making Mylan a pretty rounded character, well-meaning but also a bit snooty and judgmental at times he’s ferociously precious about his hair to the point of being very vain about it.
Chloe, in contrast, is less well-developed. I enjoyed her stubbornness and refusal to accept that nothing can be done to save her planet and determination to get Mylan to come up with a solution. However, although there are some opening scenes with her and her family, I did wish there’d been more there about how uncaring they all apparently are to her – from the dad who decides he can’t be bothered to give her a lift to school to a bullying brother who likes to play infantile jokes. It’s noticeable that for all her desire about getting the planet back, there’s no mention of wanting her family back and nor is there any scene at the end indicating if her adventures mean she’s going to have a different relationship with them going forward.
I enjoyed Fay Austin’s illustrations, which have a cartoony style but clearly have a lot of fun with Bishop’s ideas and work well at drawing out elements of the story. Unfortunately the humour element in the writing didn’t work as well for me. Certainly there are a good number of poo and fart jokes, which younger readers are going to enjoy. However I found that the humour was overly constructed at times, with Bishop straining situations to try and force the laugh and at times being overly reliant on the use of the footnotes to try and set up or punchline the jokes. This isn’t to say that it’s all a miss – a scene where Mylan encounters a farmer called Marcus who’s an alien believer works well, as does a scene where Mylan and Chloe are forced to buy a new spaceship (which is also a neat tie in to the empathy feel as Mylan understands how much the sales people really need him to make the purchase).
Ultimately, I didn’t think that this was a bad book – certainly the target audience will appreciate it – I just didn’t think it worked as well as it could have done. That said, there was certainly enough here to make me check out Bishop’s other work and next project because we need humour in children’s fiction (and indeed, any fiction!).