Barbara Kerley is the author of several award-winning picture books, but Greetings from Planet Earth is her first middle-grade novel. I thoroughly enjoyed this distinctive and engaging book and look forward to reading more from her in the future!
In 1977, Theo’s 12th birthday is bittersweet. His mom, grandma, and older sister celebrate with him and give him nice gifts, but his father is still missing. His dad joined the Army and went to Vietnam, but he never returned; it was years before Theo heard the term MIA because his mother never talks about his dad. But even knowing his dad is MIA still leaves Theo with a lot of questions about him because he barely remembers the father that left when Theo was 5 years old. No one ever wants to talk about him, but finally, Theo’s grandma begins to tell him about his dad.
At the same time, Theo’s mind is also occupied by his class project. Voyager 2 will leave Earth in the summer carrying golden records to bring greetings from earth into space. Theo’s class is making their own golden record, and Theo needs to figure out what his contribution will be. What is the most important thing about Earth? And its people? Theo considers and discards many ideas for his photo and recording, as he gradually learns more and more about his missing father.
Greetings from Planet Earth seamlessly blends light-hearted fun, facts about the moon, and introspective drama into a single, agreeable story. It captures the excitement of the early space era, along with the thoughtfulness of a young boy’s search for both his identity and his father. The characters are all real and likable, and the story moves along at a fast-pace and even has some surprises hiding along the way. It’s an excellent novel for middle-grade readers of both genders who enjoy realistic stories with some depth and heart.