Fillmore & Geary Take Off!
Mark Shulman; designed and illustrated by Phillip Fickling
San Francisco : Chronicle Books, 2004
by Colleen R. Cahill
It’s easy to recommend science fiction books for ten year olds, but when you want something for a beginning reader, the list is much shorter. There are lots of books of fairy tales, fantasies a plenty, but not many space ships or aliens for the picture book crowd. The list just got a bit longer with Fillmore & Geary Take Off!, a true science fiction adventure by Mark Shulman and Phillip Fickling that is a joy for both kids and adults.
The first page sets up the story and the tone of the book:
Fillmore and Geary were just like you and your best friend, except for a couple of things.
They weren’t from Earth.
They had a flying scooter.
One of them was a robot.
And they always made their beds.
Other than that, there was really no difference at all.
Obviously we are dealing with a book that is full of fun and humor. When Fillmore and Geary decide they need a pet, it raises a dilemma. The native life on the Planet Zada is not cuddly or friendly and all seems hopeless until the friends see a dog on an old TV show (even though Zada is far from Earth, it still gets excellent TV reception). A dog is just what they need: a pet that will chase balls and rescue little girls. After borrowing the keys to their Uncle’s Invention Room, the pair built a dog, or at least a Super Robot Dog, who goes by the name Sbot. But what a disappointment when they flip the on switch, for Sbot does not chase balls or play games, he acts like a robot. Their Uncle explains Sbot needs to see real dogs if he is going to act like one and suggests an adventure to find canine role models for their metal mutt. So Fillmore, Geary and Sbot travel from planet to planet, finding lots of different kinds of dogs. There is a surprising range of dog styles in the universe and the trio have a time finding the ideal pooch.
This is a book that can be enjoyed by many ages. There are different levels to the text and pictures, with plenty of adventure, surprises and laughs for everyone. The illustrations by Fickling are delightful, starting with the blueprints for Sbot and filling the book with colorful and imaginative additions to the story. The Invention Room is only mentioned in the text, but the drawing of the Bod-i-Matic, Leg-O-Lator, and RobOhead make the invention of Sbot seem even more real. Various highlights in the pictures are labeled, giving the reader more information, which is certain to stir up intriguing points of discussion.
I am so delighted with this book I am going to give it to all the children on my holiday gift list. And after their parents read it, I expect to get some appreciative thanks for a picture book with something for them, too. If you want to hook a young reader onto science fiction, you cannot do better than give them Fillmore & Geary Take Off!