Friday, May 4, 2007


AUTHORS: Shannon Denton and Keith Giffen
ILLUSTRATOR: Armand Villvert Jr.
GENRE: Manga Sci-Fi Adventure

FORMAT: Paperback digest
PAGES: 95 pages, black and white
ISBN: 1598165887

EDITOR’S NOTE This review will contain spoiler information. I find it necessary to talk about aspects of this book. To do so, requires me to reveal some of the great aspects of the story and discuss how they can be used in the classroom.

Space travel
Transportation between worlds
Princess rescuing
African American protagonist

Armand Jones: 12-year-old protagonist and P.O.O.P operative
Payleen: P.O.O.P. operative and Armand’s new sidekick
Gladys/Nyrimion 9 Princess: Armand’s friend at school
Nigel: Armand’s friend at school
Thadeus Todd Muk Walaku/Terros: Former P.O.O.P operative turned evil henchman
Gongar: The main evil in the universe

Armand is a typical kid, complete with his own friends and bullies. While digging his homework out of the school trashcan, thanks to a bully, he is zapped out of this world and into another. For reasons unknown, Armand is chosen to be a member of the Pangalatic Order Of Police (P.O.O.P), which seems unlikely as he isn’t popular or exceptional. After a quick bungling and a resignation he is returned to school and life as normal. That is until he discovers that the princess of Nyrimion 9 is kidnapped by Terros. He returns to P.O.O.P so that he can assist in her recovery and take down Terros.

Not only is this puppy plumb full of P.O.O.P but it is also a hoot. The kids will like this. Besides of the acronym of the Pangalatic Order of Police, this is not a book of bathroom humor. Rather, it is a science-fiction adventure whose main character is a plain old kid with no apparent abilities. That is, until he is faced with extreme circumstances that require him to be more. He does just that.

Our African American hero is just a kid who has a few friends and a bully or two. He makes decent grades, but nothing spectacular. He is not a jock, not overly smart, nor is he an outcast. He’s typical, average, normal … and yet somewhere deep down inside he is much more. His mediocrity and despondency toward school is what will attract kids to him and make him a real character.

Sure he encounters space pirates and monsters – the typical sci-fi fare – but there is much more going on in this story. The history behind Terros and what drives him to a life as a criminal is an great topic for kids to explore. What is it, exactly, that takes someone from a life of goodness and turn them to a life of crime and destruction?

There is an interesting parallel here. Terros was not always evil. In fact, he was the greatest P.O.O.P operative until the agency’s policies forced him into retirement because of his old age (16-years-old to be exact.) There is lesson here for teachers. Our policies and attitudes, our approach to children in our classroom, can backfire and lead a kid away from school rather than toward it. In our vigor to teach (and sometimes control) we can be prone to school the goodness and drive right out of a student. This piece of children’s literature is not so much a story for kids as it is for us, and it is a good reminder of the power that a teacher holds – sometimes too much power, despite our good intentions. This element has a larger implication. It is a lesson for any person – parent, preacher or teacher – who is in a position of control over a child, tween or teen. We should constantly observe our behaviors and reactions to situations to determine if our responses are for us or for the child.

ZAPT! is more than a single, flat, action-adventure story. It is humorous and entertaining on the surface, but it has real meat down below if anyone cares enough to take a look.

This is a manga-styled book, with black and white art. The uncluttered backgrounds lend to easy understanding of the characters and circumstances. Usually the transitions from panel-to-panel and page-to-page work well, but not always. There are a couple of times when the story skips forward in time and yet the illustration does not reflect that overtly. Many illustrators will indicate time changes with a narration bubble that says “later…” or some other identifier. In the case of ZAPT! one must infer the time change based on the preceeding story and the new background. That can cause for some momentary confusion and may require the reader to back up in order to understand what happened.

The placement of the speech bubbles can also be confusing. It can be hard, at times, to discern who should speak first, because the height of some of the bubbles seems haphazard. On page 56, for example, the speech bubbles are placed on the opposite side of the character. Armand is on the left, but his speech bubble is on the right. That means the speech bubble must cross the page to point to him. Payleen is on the right hand side of the page and his speech bubble is on the left, requiring it to cross the page as well. It slows the pace of the story, forcing the reader to stop, come out of the story, and ascertain who is talking.

My Rating: Ages 8-12
Publisher’s Rating: Ages 8-12
All Ages Reads: Not Rated
Comics in the Classroom: Ages 8-12

This book has a couple of nice surprises in it. The hero in the beginning, Thadeus, is the evil henchman, Terros, in the end. What turns this exceptional P.O.O.P. operative to the dark side? He is forced to retire at the age of 16 even though he is the most successful operative. The question is, could the reader have figured that out before it was revealed? With proper instruction, students would be able to figure this out on their own. It’s all about foreshadowing. The prologue of the story shows us Thadeus as a P.O.O.P operative taking down some menacing creatures. He is praised by the masses. When he gets back to headquarters, he finds out that his mission was his last. He has aged out and must retire. The reader is shown a Thadeus who promises payback. The next chapter shows us our main character, Armand.

The discerning reader will ask why the writer chose to show us Thadeus in the beginning. We can see by the his promise for revenge that Thadeus will come back to the story and we should look for that. There are other clues in the plot that lead the reader to this conclusion. By the time we get to the new minion, Terros, the reader should be able to deduce that Terros is really Thadeus. When children understand foreshadowing and can begin to predict the upcoming plot, then they can begin to enjoy reading as a hobby.

Click here for the ZAPT! MySpace page.


There is a lot about this book that kids will enjoy. There is a princess that needs to be rescued, a word to be saved and all manner of space creatures to enjoy or be disgusted by. This is a good book to reinforce foreshadowing and children’s abilities to predict what will happen next.

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