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Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel

Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel

4.5 4
by K. A. Holt

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What's going on? Mike is whisked away on a trip to Mars on only eight hours' notice, and while that sounds kind of cool. . . things aren't quite right. His parents might be involved in a sabotage plot; the know-it-all, talks-too-much girl in his class seems out of this world; and his sister back on Earth is missing. As if all that weren't enough, Mike's teacher


What's going on? Mike is whisked away on a trip to Mars on only eight hours' notice, and while that sounds kind of cool. . . things aren't quite right. His parents might be involved in a sabotage plot; the know-it-all, talks-too-much girl in his class seems out of this world; and his sister back on Earth is missing. As if all that weren't enough, Mike's teacher seems to come from the Dark Ages of the twenty-first century, and his mom's assistant is a creepy goon.

What could be worse?

Oh, yeah! The food stinks!

Loaded with laughs and fast-paced action, K. A. Holt's first novel is set to give summer reading a cosmic blast of fun.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Even though he lives in the year 2174, Mike Stellar is a fairly normal preteen: good-humored, slightly disgruntled when it comes to schoolwork and a bit of a troublemaker along with his hyper best friend Stinky (“the human embodiment of the word 'staccato’ ”). When his scientist parents announce that the family is moving to Mars without providing a reason, Mike’s detective work begins. He puts on a brave face (“I wanted to meet my fate like a man. Even if just a hyperventilating man in a shiny jumpsuit”), but is shaken by the changes and the sudden appearance of his parents’ assistant, creepy Mr. Shugabert, who watches his every step. As their spaceship Sojourner approaches “the Fold” in which the last shuttle was presumed destroyed (and Stinky’s brother lost), Mike and his odd new friend Larc gather clues and analyze who they can trust. Holt’s children’s book debut whizzes by at warp speed—the suspenseful plot and the precocious yet complex hero combine for a fun ride with a satisfying resolution. Ages 9–12. (June)
Children's Literature - Paula Rohrlick
In this sci-fi thriller, set in the year 2174, Mike is shocked to learn that he and his scientist parents are moving to Mars—the very next day. The fact that his parents were blamed for the failure of the previous expedition makes him even more suspicious about their sudden trip, and once on board the shuttle Mike starts to investigate. His parents are behaving oddly, and his mother's assistant is acting more like a menacing bodyguard. Meanwhile, a strange, know-it-all girl with white hair named Larc has befriended him, while his teacher on board, mean old Mrs. Halebopp, is—horrors!—the very same teacher from back home, who seems to have it in for him. There are complex mysteries to be solved involving sabotage, the rescue of a spaceship, and a greedy corporation's attempt to colonize other planets, and ever-curious Mike is the guy to solve them. Few people are what they seem to be, and there is humor as well as adventure in this futuristic tale. Middle school and junior high readers will enjoy Mike's smart-alecky tone and his brave-despite-himself adventures in space. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Mike Stellar does not have nerves of steel. In fact, he doesn't have much right now but his best friend. Then his parents announce that they are taking part in a Mars mission and he has to join them. Now Mike has to spend the next few years on a small spaceship with his mother and father—oh, joy. Suddenly, strange things begin to pique his curiosity, among them his parents are distracted and don't even get upset when his sister goes missing back on Earth, and his mother's assistant seems to be following him everywhere. Maybe they're tied to the previous doomed mission that destroyed his parents' reputation. Maybe he's losing his mind. Maybe Mike can find his nerves of steel. Sadly, the story line seems more like aluminum, thin and shaky. It jumps around too much and readers get lost trying to see what happened and why. Because the plotting is chaotic, it becomes difficult to connect with the characters. Bruce Coville's My Teacher Is an Alien (S & S, 1990) and M. T. Anderson's Whales on Stilts! (Harcourt, 2005) are better choices for readers requesting humorous science fiction.—Saleena L. Davidson, South Brunswick Public Library, Monmouth Junction, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Strange behavior from all the grown-ups and the over-hasty departure of an interstellar expedition raise a lad's suspicions in this adventure-comedy set in 2174. Still wondering if there's truth to the rumors that his scientist parents are to blame for the disappearance of a previous expedition, Mike finds troubling clues that they're out to sabotage the newest one too after they hustle him aboard a ship that takes off almost immediately for the nearest wormhole. On the way, not only does Larc, an oddly knowing classmate with long, white hair, attach herself to him, but he's horrified to find his dragonesque old teacher Mrs. Halebopp aboard as well. As it turns out, they and his parents are allied in a secret effort to rescue the lost explorers while exposing a corporation's ruthless scheme to reap quick profits by terraforming newly discovered planets at the expense of local ecologies. Readers will enjoy watching Mike work his way through both muddled feelings and adult secrets with savvy sleuthing, sharp observation and courage in the clutch. (Science fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel

By K. A. Holt

Random House Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2009 K. A. Holt
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780375945564

Mike Stellar  
Mrs. Halebopp, English  
May 31, 2174  

The Process Of Terraforming, Made Simple  

So here's what they do: The Project sends exploration crews out to search for ice. And when I say out to search for it, I don't just mean out to the Plug 'n' Sip to find a bag of ice. It'd have to be a honkin' big bag of ice, because it would have to cover part of a PLANET. That's what the crazy Project dudes want. Ice on a planet. So they can melt it. So how do they melt it? With gigantic mirrors! In space! That look kind of like sails on old-fashioned ships! The mirror-sails can range anywhere from five milesacross to two hundred miles across, can you believe that?!  

Once the space crews are finished building the mirror-sails (sometimes this takes years and years), they glide the gigantic mirror-sails over the ice on the planet and then turn the sails toward the sun. Why do they do that, you ask? Well, I'll tell you.The sails reflect the sun's heat down onto the ice and melt it. My dad showed me how this works by taking a magnifying glass outside and using it to melt an ice cube. It's more fun to fry ants this way, so I wonder if maybe the mirror-sails could be used to fry aliens. Anyway, the ice starts to melt and that releases carbon dioxide into the air. Carbon dioxide is the stuff humans spew out when they breathe. This helps to heat the planet up somehow. Once the planet heats up and the water melts, it's easy to start growing plants and grasses and things like that. That's when the fast-growing plants and frankenbugs and bacteria and stuff are dropped onto the plnet. Then, a few years later--voila--Earth II (or III or IV). The whole process is called terraforming. Some people are really against it, like my sister, Nita. But other people think it's just great. I don't really care one way or another.    

All in all, a much better report than last time, Mike. You have to stop with the editorial comments, though, and you MUST START USING PROPER PARAGRAPHS. Research reports are serious work. You are presenting facts. Please keep that in mind when you rewrite this paper. (And don't be discouraged, Mike. This will make a decent ten-minute speech due NEXT MONTH.)   C+    

"Rewrite? Ten-minute speech? Arrgh. I knew Mrs. Halebopp was out to get me." I marched over to a tree, thought about kicking it, and stomped on the ground instead.  

"Her giant head blocks out the sun and her black-hole eyes read my mind. I know they do." I shook my report at my friend Stinky for emphasis. "It already took me like eight million years to research this paper, now I have to do it again? And read it in front of people? I am toast."  

Stinky stared with his mouth kind of open. I'm not usually a stomping and yelling kind of kid.  

"Worse than toast," I continued, my voice cracking, making me madder. "I'm oily, melted margarine dripping off of toast and onto the floor. I'll be smeared into the carpet at school. Forever. No escape."  

I crumpled up the cellopage printout of my report and threw it into an ant bed I'd been nudging with my foot. The ants streamed over it, seething, taking out their frustration on my 100 percent recyclable, 100 percent doomed report.  

"Mike?" Stinky gawked as if my head had exploded. "You need to seriously cut back on the drama."  

Stinky was always saying that. I could be on fire, with robots eating my legs, and he'd be all, "Calm down, man. Things'll be fiiiine." It was funny, because just looking at him, you'd think Stinky would be the opposite. His hair stood up like his mom must've accidentally electrocuted him when he was a baby. His arms were splotchy with freckles; his laugh sounded like a machine gun. He seemed like the human embodiment of the word "staccato." And yet he was as calm as the wake of a Dirigible Cruiser.  

He was silly and fun and, well, not actually very stinky. But he'd been my friend since we were both in diapers, and I didn't care that people still jokingly held their noses whenever he walked by. (You accidentally drop air-freshener tablets into the boys' room toilets instead of the stink bombs you promised, and apparently, you never live down everyone's disappointment.)  

Stinky was my best friend and I listened to him . . . most of the time. So I sat down on the ground (away from the ants) and put my face in my hands.   "You need to just relax. Mrs. Halebopp, she's not the devil. I mean, she did give you a C+. That's a hundred times better than your astrophysics report."  

I winced. I still didn't know anything about astrophysics.  

"Thanks," I said.  

Stinky punched me on the shoulder. My mouth curled into a tiny O. If only he punched as carefully as he chose his stink bombs.  

"Your paper isn't that bad, Mike. I know you feel this pressure or whatever 'cause your mom and dad are big shots over at the Project, but I don't think Mrs. Halebopp cares about that. She might not even know about it."  

"Ha!" I said, rubbing my face and my hair. I smelled my hands. Shampoo, head grease, humiliation . . . yep . . . that was me, all right.  

From the Trade Paperback edition.


Excerpted from Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel by K. A. Holt Copyright © 2009 by K. A. Holt. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

K. A. Holt lives a life of mayhem in Austin, Texas, with her husband, three children, and an annoying dog. When she is not writing space adventures or daydreaming about time travel, she enjoys eating lots and lots of chocolate and watching too much television.

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Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read the sample!! Can't wait to read the book. Sounds like for grades 3-5.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My son was suppose to read this and when he read it he loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago