A Roald Dahlian eco-parable for middle grade readers, The Story of the Blue Planet* takes place on a special, beautiful planet strikingly similar to earth and inhabited only by children. These Peter-Pan-esque protagonists never age and come in all shapes and sizes. Some are “even weird like the child you see in the mirror.” They can eat, sleep, and play whenever they want, and everyone gets along. Life on the blue planet is wonderful.
One day, though, Gleesome Goodday, a slick adult con artist, arrives in a space ship, bearing a business card that reads, “Stardust vacuum cleaner traveling salesman,” “Dream-Come-True-Maker” and “JoyBringer.” In his own words:
“I’m the most way-out guy in the world and I can do ANYTHING, let me tell you, because I’m the
coolest man who has ever set foot on this blue planet!…You are all so unbelievably lucky to
have been chosen for a special offer…I am going to make your sweetest dreams come true!”
The children aren’t interested at first, saying their life is great already. But salesman that he is, Goodday manages to persuade them that everything they’ve been doing is just… so… boring, and that he could make life fun and interesting again–at a special discount price. Soon the children buy into his sales pitch. They rename him Jolly-Goodday and agree to pay a drop of their eternal youth in exchange for the ability to fly using special butterfly powder that he vacuums up for them. Boredom and more desires arise, additional payments ensue, and slowly but inevitably, the children lose more and more drops of their youth to this manipulative travelling salesman. Gradually their joyful Eden turns increasingly sour as the children need more and more excitement and fun just to stay content.
One day, best friends Hulda and Brimir, discover that their decisions have caused the children on the other side the planet to suffer. But when the two bring this news back home with them, Goodday and their friends treat them with scorn in a chillingly prescient satirical scene depicting politics and democracy run amok.
Hulda’s and Brimir’s discovery drives the rest of the story and is the crux of the moral dilemma at the heart of this marvelously told, droll tale: is it right to prosper and thrive when one’s actions directly cause others harm?
This universal problem and the consequences of greed—particularly relevant to today’s first world nations—are something that future adults and leaders-to-be will need to think about and address.
You’ll have to read the rest of the story to find out what Goodday really wants and how the children extricate themselves from his grasp before they lose all their youth to him—not to mention what happens to the beautiful blue planet. But since Hulda and Brimir are clever and caring, concerned young readers need not fear: everything turns out well in the end on the beautiful blue planet.
Written by Andri Snaer Magnason
Illustrated by Áslaug Jónsdóttir
Translated from the Icelandic by Julian Meldon D’Arcy
U.K. edition: 2013, Pushkin Press, ISBN: 9781782690658
U.S. edition: 2012, Triangle Square (Seven Stories Press), ISBN: 9781609804282
Watch the author read the first part of the book.
Awards: Icelandic Literary Prize (the first children’s book to win this); Janusz Korczak Honorary Award; West Nordic Children’s Book Prize; 2014 UKLA Book Award; 2015 North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award; 2013 Green Earth Book Award Honor Selection
*Review copy kindly provided by the publisher.
Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of 60 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, German, and Spanish into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her recent translations, Luisa: Now and Then and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book. Her most recent translations are For Justice: The Serge and Beate Klarsfeld Story, The Sisters #7: Lucky Brat, Chloe & Cartoon, Brina the Cat #2: City Cat, LGBTQ manga, Alter Ego, and A House Without Windows.