Some of my readers know that the very first story I wrote (in second grade) was Pigs in Space. I still have it. I still wonder whatever prompted me to write it. This was before the Muppets launched their pigs into space. And it was definitely before Kim T. Griswell and Valeri Gorbachev launched their pig into space in Rufus Blasts Off! Or am I giving it away? After all, a refrain in the book is “No pigs in space.”
So then how does Rufus Leroy Williams III, the pig at the center of this tale, blast off?
His colleagues, the pirates, are bored with the same old stories that Rufus reads out loud. They want something new. So Rufus knows he’ll have to set off on an adventure. He chooses to travel to Mars.
When he gets to the Space Center, the guard lets him right in. He escorts Rufus up the elevator into the spacecraft. This is the stuff of which delicious fantasies are made.
Then everything comes to a screeching halt. Commander Luna doesn’t want a pig on board … and she has a lot of good reasons (my favorite is “They leave nose prints on the view screens.” Rufus is inventive. He’s smart. He can think of counter-arguments.
The best reason? One of their crew members, Mission Specialist Rita, was scheduled to read to America’s school children from Mars. But she has a cold. Luckily, Rufus knows how to read and he has a big pile of books.
This book is just right for reading out loud (and probably more than once). With the right amount of repetition and predictability, a say-it-with-me countdown, appealing characters, and a good dose of humor, this is a book that subtly reinforces the importance of stories and reading.
Valeri Gorbachev provides added details for the discerning reader. There’s a Space Suit store (of course there is). There’s a Mars land vehicle, a space station, and a hibernation capsule. Plenty of juicy space details. Created with watercolor and pen, the illustrations match and enhance the text.
Following Rufus Goes to School and Rufus Goes to Sea (the pirates), this is my favorite. The delight-filled, light-hearted story and the space setting make this a story to read and re-read. And it’s about pigs in space!
Rufus Blasts Off!
written by Kim T. Griswell
illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev
published by Sterling Children’s Books, 2017