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Gemini Jack is back in his shop at the Middle Valley Mall, and once again he’s hoping twins Tod and Tessa can help him with problems on his home planet. But Tod and Tessa have problems of their own. The Gneiss twins, once so evil they scared their own mother, are now sickeningly nice. It’s as if the entire balance of the universe has gone kablooey! Then Tod and Tessa use one of Jack’s gadgets to help the great rock drummer, Nigel Throbber, escape from his fame temporarily–only to learn the effects are permanent! ...
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Overview

Gemini Jack is back in his shop at the Middle Valley Mall, and once again he’s hoping twins Tod and Tessa can help him with problems on his home planet. But Tod and Tessa have problems of their own. The Gneiss twins, once so evil they scared their own mother, are now sickeningly nice. It’s as if the entire balance of the universe has gone kablooey! Then Tod and Tessa use one of Jack’s gadgets to help the great rock drummer, Nigel Throbber, escape from his fame temporarily–only to learn the effects are permanent! Now they need to give Nigel back his celebrity, save Jack’s planet, and convince Nancy Gneiss that she doesn’t really have a crush on Tod. Which makes restoring the balance of the universe look like a breeze. . . .

Their alien friend Gemini Jack tries to help twins Tod and Tessa but his actions backfire when he turns the evil Gneiss twins super-nice and removes drummer Nigel Throbber's celebrity by spraying him with permanent Fame Ban.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This sequel to Be First in the Neighborhood continues the adventures of Tod and Tessa, their hippy grandparents and the alien Jack who runs a store on the third floor of the Mall. This one features a surfeit of characters that readers may have trouble keeping straight, but the authors tie up the many antic plot threads by the story's end. It seems that the Gneiss twins are too nice after the previous book's alien straightening out of their DNA;a rocker named Nigel Throbber can't find an audience for his Drummerdammerung symphony, and the grandparents' obnoxious Patagonia goats are driving everyone nuts. So Tod and Tessa have to sort it all out while dodging various characters and having their alien connections exposed. Outer space gadgets abound, including Effie, a fib eater that beeps in the presence of lies, a doll in the image of Jack who communicates to earth, and a spray called Fame Ban that neuters Nigel's rocker appeal. The story demands some attention to keep the plot and characters straight. Still, for good readers who like fantasy stories a little more complicated than Elizabeth Levy's fantasy/sci fi novels, this is a good choice. 2001, Delacorte Press, $14.95. Ages 8 to 11. Reviewer:Susan Hepler
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-This sequel to Be First in the Universe (Delacorte, 2000) reunites twins Tessa and Tod with Gemini Jack, who has a store at the mall and once again needs their help to save his planet from the invading Vorons. Previously, the twins had been instrumental in preserving the safety of that faraway land by stealing DNA from the nasty Gneiss twins and injecting the residents of Gemini so that they will fight back. In turn, some niceness was injected into the Gneiss siblings, making them sickeningly sweet. At the mall, Tessa and Todd meet rock drummer Nigel Throbber, who claims to hate his fawning fans so Jack sprays him with "Fame Ban," which lasts for 15 minutes. However, it turns out that the wrong spray was used; this one has an expiration date of never. Now, no one recognizes him and he is horribly depressed. In the end, Nigel lands on Gemini, which holds the only antidote to the spray, the Gneiss twins are reinjected with their own DNA, and balance is restored. The characters are zany, yet believable; real, yet surreal. This is a fitting follow-up to the first book. Purchase where it is popular.-Kay Bowes, Concord Pike Library, Wilmington, DE Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440415602
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/1902
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.68 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephanie Spinner is the coauthor of Aliens for Breakfast and its companions, Aliens for Lunch and Aliens for Dinner, with Jonathan Etra.

Terry Bisson’s science fiction novels include Pirates of the Universe, a New York Times Notable Book of 1996.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"Tessa! Hey! Guess who I saw at the mall—"

Tessa Gibson turned. But before she could respond to her twin brother, Tod, who was just getting off his bike, a terrible force struck her from behind and sent her flying.

"Oooww!" she cried.

"Baaa."

KERWHAP!

She hit the ground so hard that her eyes filled with tears and her mouth filled with dirt. For a second she didn't know what had hit her, and that was scary. Then she did, which was even worse.

Once again she'd been outsmarted—by a goat.

He stood there staring at her without the slightest remorse as she sat up, groaning.

Twist, the most beautiful of her grandfather's prized Patagonians, was silky-coated, curly-horned, straight-legged, and golden-eyed.

He was also as mean as a snake.

This was the second time in a week he'd butted Tessa. He and his sister, Shout, were showing her no mercy, and Tessa had the black-and-blue marks to prove it.

"You used to be bad. Now you are evil," she told him, half-wishing he'd choke on the organic carrot he was chewing. In response he wiggled his goatee.

Tod dropped his bike and hurried over. "My fault," he said. "Sorry." He helped her up.

"It's okay," Tessa mumbled, wiping her eyes quickly.

"You can't turn your back on him," said Tod as Tessa brushed hay and dirt off her shorts and out of her curly reddish hair. "He holds grudges, remember?"

"What's his problem, anyway? I wasn't torturing him, I was just trying to tag him." The twins' grandfather, Lou, planned to show the goatsat the Middle County Livestock Fair next week, and they had to be tagged to enter. Every time the twins tossed a coin for the job, Tessa lost.

"You called him Butthead yesterday," Tod reminded her. "Maybe it made him mad."

"He is a butthead. Besides," she added as they walked to the house, "when did goats start understanding English?"

"These are no ordinary goats," said Tod, doing a pretty fair imitation of their grandfather. Lou tended to be semimystical, especially about his goats. He talked to them and sang to them, and lately he'd started wanting to win blue ribbons with them. Meanwhile, his wife, Lulu, ran an organic dessert business and wrote cookbooks.

Lou and Lulu were old-fashioned hippies. They loved nature, believed in karma, and danced around the kitchen to old rock and roll.

"No joke," said Tessa. "They've gone over to the Dark Side." She had just started reading some of Tod's old Star Wars books.

Tod stopped. "That reminds me!" he said. "Guess who I saw at the mall today?"

"Darth Vader?"

"No. Jack!" Tod was usually calm and self-contained, but now there was a note of real excitement in his voice.

"Gemini Jack?" Tessa's eyebrows flew up and her cheeks turned pink. "Really?" Tall, courteous, many-fingered Jack was from a faraway twin planet, but he sometimes managed a store at the mall, which was where Tod and Tessa had met him. They were the only ones who knew he was an alien. Most shoppers assumed he was dressed up for a promotion.

"I thought he was on Gemini, fighting the Vorons," said Tessa as they walked into the kitchen.

"The who?" asked their grandmother Lulu, breaking eggs into a bowl.

Tod and Tessa exchanged a quick glance.

"Aliens from a television show," said Tod, and Lulu smiled absently. The Double L Goat Ranch was surrounded by suburbs, but Lulu and Lou knew next to nothing about television, movies, fast food, or the other essentials of normal life. They lived in a world of their own.

Lulu's smile faded. "Tessa, honey, is that hay in your hair? And why's your face all dirty?" She wiped her hands. "Did those darn goats get you again?"

Tessa nodded.

"Was it Twist?"

Tessa nodded again.

"Come here, honeybun," said Lulu. She hugged Tessa, sat her down on a kitchen stool, and kissed the top of her head. "Are you hurt?" she asked.

"I'm okay," said Tessa, enjoying her grandmother's orange-and-vanilla smell.

"Good," said Lulu. "Because guess what? I have a nice surprise for you." She pulled a postcard out of her shirt pocket. The card was battered and torn, creased and stained, as if it had been rained on, snowed on, and chewed by a camel. The photo showed a camel market in Mongolia.

"From Mom and Dad!" said Tod and Tessa together. Their parents were traveling around the world on a buying trip for their import-export business.

"hey, kids," said the message, which was written in their father's bouncy uppercase lettering, "we miss you! lots of delays, so won't be back next month. home by labor day, if we have to hire a camel to carry us! much love—"

"Good news or bad?" asked Lou as he walked in.

"Both," Lulu told him. "Bad news is, Twig and Herbert are stuck in Mongolia. Good news is, we get to keep these two a little longer." She ruffled Tessa's hair, then frowned when she hit straw. "Oh, and Twist butted Tessa again."

"He did?" said Lou, looking dismayed. "That is bad news!"

"I couldn't even get a tag on him," said Tessa.

"They're getting meaner and meaner," said Lulu.

"The livestock show is next week," said Lou. "I'll tag them myself, and I'll sell them—after I've shown them. It won't be easy . . ." His normally cheerful face looked pained.

Lulu started to say something, then stopped.

"Who would even buy them?" asked Tessa.

"Goat fanciers aren't looking for good manners," said Lou. "They want conformation and bloodlines. Which Twist and Shout have. They're no ordinary goats, you know. They've got a great pedigree." Lou's bushy eyebrows came together like two caterpillars and his eyes turned dreamy, signs that a story was coming.

"An old friend gave them to me . . . ," he began.

"Some friend," said Tessa.

"I'm sorry for what they did to you, Tess," said Lou. "And you're right—I shouldn't keep them if they can't behave."

"Let's put an ad in the paper," said Lulu firmly.

Lou winced. "I did promise Homer I'd let him know if I ever decided to sell them," he said.

"Homer the mandolin player?" asked Lulu. Lou and some friends got together every now and then to play old-timey country music.

"And the manager of Natureland," said Lou.

"Natureland at the mall?" asked the twins.

Lou nodded, with just the hint of a smile. "I could call him," he said. "Or . . . you could deliver the message in person. Think you're up to it?"

"Yes!" cried Tessa, jumping to her feet.

"Cool," murmured Tod, who was a lot more reserved than his twin.

"Groovy," said Lou. He disappeared for a moment, returning with a photo of himself kneeling between the goats.

"Give this to Homer, okay?" he said. "He can hang it on his bulletin board with my phone number as a reminder."

"Consider it done," said Tod, putting the photo in his pack. He rushed out after Tessa.

"Back by dinnertime!" called Lulu.

"Okay!" called the twins from their bikes.

"Baaa!" called the goats from their pen.

Lulu turned on the radio and got a Beatles song. Lou grinned.

"Let's dance," he said.

Copyright 2002 by Stephanie Spinner and Terry Bisson
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