Interview and Giveaway with Author Joshua Levy

Get ready for some out-of-this-world fun as we welcome author Joshua Levy 


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.



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Jennifer Swanson
Science ROCKS! And so do Jennifer Swanson's books. She is the award-winning author of over 40 nonfiction books for kids. Jennifer Swanson’s love of science began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, you can find Jennifer at her favorite place to explore the world around her.
Jennifer is also the creator and administrator of #STEMTuesday and #STEAMTeam2020
  1. Going to school in outer space would mean seeing space–the views would be amazing!

  2. I would love being able to see all the space views in person!

  3. Playing tag after school.

    Thanks for the chance!

  4. I would love to go to school in outer space!! Weightlessness! Seeing earth and the moon while in space and just think of the experiments that could be conducted!!

  5. I teach seventh grade, and my students would love it! What I would love about going to school (as the teacher) in space, would be the ability to use the ENTIRE classroom if necessary in zero gravity. No wasted ceiling space, haha.

  6. I’m so glad to see something out there for boys, and I think you nailed it! 🙂

  7. I’m wondering if being in space would change the dynamics–if kids who were clumsy on Earth would have skills in space, if kids who had advantages on Earth would find themselves no longer automatically graceful. If so, that would be my favorite part of school in space.

  8. I’m so excited for this book. I think it’d be so fun to go to school in space. The views out the window would be amazing. And the floating around would be so much fun.

  9. I’d love to go to school in space because of the potential “close encounters” with beings other than earthlings!

  10. Without a doubt, weightlessness. I love the cover. The book looks great. Thanks for an interesting interview.

  11. The view from the classroom window!

  12. One reason I would enjoy attending a school in outer space would be the potential field trips we could take. We could travel to the moon or another planet. Imagine being able to walk on the moon? That would be amazing.

  13. Definitely the view – and the feeling of being weightless

  14. This sounds fantastic! I would love to look out the window and see stars and planets while I daydreamed, instead of a boring school parking lot or street scene. Floating would be fun, too!

  15. I would also say the science angle to be able to see astronomical wonders like the horsehead and cat’s eye nebulae or perform experiments to see how plants or technology from earth reacts in space would be amazing!