to the blog to talk about his new book Seventh Grade vs. The Galaxy
out this month from Carolrhoda Books
What it’s about: PSS 118 is just your typical school except that it’s a rickety old spaceship orbiting Jupiter. When the school is mysteriously attacked, thirteen-year-old Jack receives a cryptic message from his father (the school’s recently-fired-for-tinkering-with-the-ship science teacher). Amidst the chaos, Jack discovers that his dad has built humanity’s first light-speed engine and given Jack control of it. To save the ship, Jack catapults it hundreds of light-years away and right into the clutches of the first aliens humans have ever seen. School hasn’t just gotten out: it’s gone clear across the galaxy. And now it’s up to Jack and his friends to get everyone home.
Thanks for joining us today, Josh. Your book looks SO cool! Can you tell us how you came up with this idea?
Thanks! And of course! I’m a lawyer now—but I was a middle school teacher for a little while before law school. And the genesis of the idea for SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY (kids who attend “public school spaceships”) was simply me wanting to create something that I think my students would have enjoyed—and that I know I would have enjoyed—when I was middle school.
Have you always loved space/space exploration?
Oh my gosh, yes.
On the fictional side, as a kid, I devoured every Star Wars novel there was. (I don’t think this is an exaggeration. Every. Single. One.) I know that Star Wars isn’t “science fiction.” It’s fantasy. But still: There’s something so compelling about the way space is portrayed in the series. There’s so much wonder there.
On the non-fictional side, I grew up in Florida and got to watch a few space shuttle launches from afar, when the program was still up and running. And I’ve never tired of watching clips of NASA control centers cheering when a launch (or a landing) goes well. We’re still so excited about the prospect of exploring what’s out there. And we’ve barely scratched the surface of our solar system, let alone what’s beyond it.
I know your book is fiction, but did you do any research for this book?
So, a lot of the “science” in the book is more of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy variety. Meaning, SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY is meant to be fun and funny and exciting—not necessarily the most accurate portrayal of space exploration. How does the ship ultimately move about the galaxy? I’ll channel Doctor Who here and just answer: “Timey wimey.”
But that isn’t to say I didn’t do any research. Thinking about which planets/moons in our solar system are likely to be inhabited one day. Plotting out real distances and time needed to travel (even if I consciously discarded the reality of it, sometimes). Mapping out just how much square-footage would be required to house about 100 kids and their teachers on a rundown spaceship.
Lemme put it this way: I wouldn’t call the science grounded. Nor would I call it all groundless. (And I’m forever grateful for the Hayden Planetarium’s…astronomy hotline? I’ve called them a handful of times over the last few years. They. Are. Awesome.)
Tell us a little about the story and how your characters evolved. They seem so funny and real.
The story centers around Jacksonville “Jack” Graham, Beckenham “Becka” Pierce, and Arizona “Ari” Bowman, three seventh graders onboard the Public School Spaceship (“PSS”) 118. When the PSS 118 is attacked by aliens and the school finds itself light-years away from home, Jack, Becka, and Ari play a crucial role in the fight to get home.
I’m so grateful for your comment that they seem “so funny and real.” It means a lot to me that these three middle schoolers (and the other kids onboard the 118) come across as genuine. Seventh graders are so funny and real. And I hope that readers will follow these characters’ journey and think: Yeah, that’s exactly how a 12- or 13-year-old kid would react.
What’s next for the kids of the PSS 118?
Oooh. No spoilers! But let’s just say that their mission’s not over. Not yet.
Thank you so much!
We are happy you stopped by and even more so since Joshua is offering a FREE copy of his new book as a giveaway to one lucky person. Just comment below and you will be entered. Let’s make this interesting, to enter for the giveaway, leave a comment describing one thing that you would love about going to school in space? For me it would be (of course) the science angle. I would LOVE to float around and feel weightless.