“Amusement park–dwelling animals band together to remain in their home in Bell’s middle-grade novel.
Galactic Fun Park is not just a popular amusement complex. It’s also home to an entire society of critters that live off leftover food and garbage that people leave behind. It’s all well and good during the prosperous summer months, but now that the off-season has come, the park’s residents will have to get by on far less. Minister Balmore, the leader of the rats, has seen the population of his group grow, and he’s desperate to recruit new rat warriors to help defend his colony’s preferred territory: the funnel cake shop. The cats, led by Bubba Squeakers, live in Rover’s Landing, where the roller coaster is located, while the cockroaches, whose leader is known by the title Grand Jeffery, inhabit the park’s Moon Man section. There’s more to worry about than mere territorial disputes, however. Exterminators have been spotted in the park, and no creature is safe. The human park manager, Mr. Jenkins, doesn’t see the harm in having a few animals here and there, but the head exterminator, Maurice, is on a personal mission against all pests: “These varmints have overbred, and it’s only a matter of time before they attack the guests,” Maurice tells his less-bloodthirsty assistant, Ron. “Being at the top of the food chain gives us the right over these creatures.” The only thing that makes sense is for the animals to unite, benefiting from the wisdom of such leaders as the raccoons’ Bandit Queen and the squirrels’ ancient Postmaster. But can they set aside old feuds and new power struggles?
Bell’s prose is buoyant over the course of this novel, and she fleshes out the world of the park with rich detail, as in a description of one of its main attractions, the ZenithTarium: “The raccoons who lived in the area revered the planetarium-like theater with its sleek steel walls and rocket-styled seats.” For all the worldbuilding that Bell does over the course of the novel, however, she fails to bring the same level of depth to her characters. Although figures such as Bubba Squeakers, Grand Jeffery, and others represent strange and inventive societies, they lack strong definition as individuals. Even Minister Balmore, who seems, at times, to have a bit more pathos than the other players, feels disappointingly two-dimensional in the end. As a result, it may be difficult for the reader to care very much about them even as they are all threatened with extermination. Overall, Bell fails to sell the stakes of the story, in part, because she sketches out the world with such a gentle touch. Tensions aren’t played up as much as they could be, and a few of the rivalries feel ill-defined. It’s a shame, because the premise of the work is such a strong one, with a bunch of animals challenging humans for amusement park supremacy. Further sequels are planned, so perhaps these weaknesses may be addressed before the next volume appears.
An imaginative novel but one that lacks heart.”
— Kirkus Review