by Zoe Ferraris
It so happened that my sixth grade daughter had a book report due last week, so we read Galaxy Pirates: Hunt for the Pyxis together. This was the third book my daughter had started and (unlike the other two) it drew her in from page one with a heart-pounding scene in which Halifax Brightstroke, a young (pregnant) female pirate, is sewn into a sack with a sleeping lynx and tossed overboard by the (also female) captain of the ship when she refuses to divulge the location of the mysterious Pyxis.
The story picks up, twelve years later, from the point of view of the pirate's daughter, who knows nothing about her parents' past before she was born. Emma Garton has grown up sailing on the family's boat with her father and her best friend Herbie, but her mother has never shown much interest in the water.
Herbie suspects that her father may be hiding something, but Emma refuses to acknowledge that there is anything out of the ordinary about her family until one day, when Herbie is visiting, two intruders break into the house, and Emma's dad shoves the children into a secret hiding place before both of her parents confront the strangers. Emma and Herbie overhear them asking her parents about the Pyxis, and then they shoot her father and take both of her parents hostage.
As Emma is leaving the secret hiding place before calling the police, she discovers a wooden box. Suspecting that it might contain the mysterious Pyxis, she escapes to the boat to open it in secret; and when Herbie comes after her, they discover they are being followed. They have no choice but to sail away from the dock, and are soon shocked to discover themselves sailing through a portal that leads them into outer space.
The children soon learn the ways of the galaxy as they encounter inhabitants of different planets and voyage on a quest to save Emma's parents (while keeping the Pyxis out of the hands of the evil Queen Virgo).
The creative alien characters and imaginative properties of this intergalactic world inspired the same type of awestruck thrill in me that I had when first reading the Harry Potter novels. While sometimes frighteningly violent, there is never a dull moment in this young adult fantasy adventure. The only complaint that my daughter and I both had about the book, is that it ends not only on a cliffhanger, but literally in the middle of the action, without any satisfying resolution to quest that the children have undertaken. That said, we both can't wait to read the next book in the series!
Zoe Ferraris is the author of three critically acclaimed adult novels that have been translated into over thirty languages. Finding Nouf won the ALA-YALSA Alex Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Ferraris received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives in San Fransisco. Visit her online at zoeferraris.com.