Niko is busy reading a story while he and the rest of his crew are resting by their spaceship. He invites his cousin Sasha to take a ride in the ship, but she is snatched away. Oh, no! Niko and the crew must get her back at once. With his copilot Radar and his faithful dog Tag, Niko takes off after the space pirate. Even after the long journey to Planet Zorg, the brave crew still have to face Pirate Posh. How will they free Sasha from their fierce enemy? Niko's spaceship is constructed from cardboard boxes. His copilot is actually a toy robot and the space pirate is only his cousin's friend. (Tag really is a dog) But with the power of his imagination, Niko has them all flying through space, tracking across a wild planet, and facing down an evil pirate. And when Posh tells Sasha, "Let's delete ourselves from this story," Niko refuses to give up control of the narrative. "It's MY story!" he tells her.
The illustrations show the transition from reading in the backyard to starring in this daring adventure. Once the rescue begins, Niko and Tag are shown in spacesuits, the ship is suddenly real rather than cardboard, and Radar is moving around and checking the ship's systems. And then, once the trip is over and Niko is called to dinner, everything is back to its original appearance. There is also plenty of humor worked into the illustrations. The dolls that the girls are playing with "trigger bad memories" for Tag, and in his thought bubble we can see the girls dressing Tag up as if he were a doll. At the end of the story we see Radar sitting in the ship next to a doll that has been left behind, and there is a heart in Radar's thought bubble. But my favorite may be the double-page spread of Niko and his crew spacewalking back to Earth after the pirate steals his ship. Radar has flames coming from the bottoms of his feet, Tag has a rocket pack on his back, and Niko seems to be holding his breath with his cheeks puffed out. What determination!
This is a perfect story for children who enjoy make-believe and outer space. It could also be used to help someone deal with disappointment when a playmate prefers another friend. I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.
* Update - 08/01/2016 We have added this title to the Fairview Library.