Ben’s bar mitzvah is rapidly approaching, and he is both excited and nervous. So many things can go wrong. Will he be able to handle the pressures? Will the bar mitzvah be a grand success? He hopes to satisfy his family and friends on this highly anticipated occasion.
Then strange things begin to happen at his synagogue and in his family. Ben wonders whether his imagination is getting the better of him. It seems that a group of aliens is using his shul and its members to stage a takeover of the Earth and make it their own planet — and Ben is the only one who understands their nefarious plot. With the help of his caring grandfather, Ben hatches a successful plan to save the world, just in time to celebrate his bar mitzvah.
This sci-fi book is humorous and engrossing, with black-and-white drawings that add to its overall charm. Ben’s relationship with his grandfather is a model of intergenerational communication and trust; and his growing confidence in his own abilities serves as an excellent message. Somehow, the author makes the alien takeover and Ben’s reaction to it seem almost plausible. We watch Ben and his grandfather demonstrate ingenuity as they outwit the foe and keep their community safe and sound. All’s well by the end, when Ben’s bar mitzvah proceeds as planned. His family admires his initiative, and the aliens find a new planet that they can call home.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.