Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 14 Apr 2019

Teachers on Pluto by Lou Treleaven

We met Jon on his first expedition to Pluto where he was obliged to keep up a regular correspondence with his teacher Mrs Hall. Being seven and a half billion kilometres from Earth might seem like a huge educational adventure in itself, but strict school rules meant that he had to complete lots of homework while he was visiting there and to write her regular updates about his experiences. As a result, she was so impressed with his writing skills that she chose him to be at the forefront for a school handwriting campaign.

In this next adventure, Jon has returned to Pluto with friends and family for another visit and has been allowed  to stay on with his good friend Staxi and to spend some time as a pupil at Flumpenslurp Blurble School. He is very much looking forward to a different kind of curriculum which includes ‘weird subjects like Packed Lunch Studies and Grow Your Own Friend’.

But his life is going to get complicated because we learn from the front page of The Solar Times at the beginning of the story that the President of the planet has married Jon’s Gran and is now on his honeymoon. His temporary replacement was chosen as the result of a competition and we can well imagine his horror when Jon realises that Mrs Hall was the winner! Will he never be allowed to escape her scrutiny? Apart from this, he is not at all confident that she is up to doing this responsible job. Most worryingly she seems to be very keen on imposing new laws that include whole –planet assemblies every day, timetables, tests, no running and detentions for dropping litter. Her evident obsession with handwriting has also risen to the fore:

‘Penpals will be given to everyone.

The person who writes the best letter each week gets to take home the school cactus’.

As with the last book, the story unfolds using letters, this time written back and forth between Jon, his mum, dad and his younger sister. They let him know that his brother Jason smuggled Sparkly Deathray, a strange Plutonic creature known as a Snargler, back to earth and it is causing real problems. Luckily, Staxi has some good advice when she writes back to Jon’s parents. She has found out plenty of information from an expert and sends them a detailed Snargler Care Fact Sheet that includes some dire warnings:

‘Since Snarglers resemble sausages, keep them away from puff pastry or baked beans for their own   (and your taste buds) safety’.

Despite all the helpful advice, the Snargler remains on the loose and seems to have mutated to an alarming size with frighteningly sharp teeth. Should it even be allowed to return to Pluto? What will be the result if it does? You will need to read the book for yourself to find out what happens next and how the class robot operating under the control of Jon and Staxi causes further mayhem.

Jon has a different kind of correspondence using postcards to his Gran who is currently honeymooning on Saturn and having a very exciting time. When she replies, it seems that she is continuing to get involved with various dangerous pursuits such as racing, parachuting, caving and abseiling. 

Children will love this interactive story which is packed with very funny incidents. The use of note-like drawings, a range of fonts and formats throughout contribute to the energetic pace. As well as being an enjoyable read, it would provide plenty of inspiration for creative writing and imaginative artwork. It seems that Jon is off to visit Planet Neptune next, so we can look forward to some more interesting letters about his adventures.

 Karen Argent

April 2019