I’ve been excited for Josh Levy’s debut novel ever since I first read the title in his Twitter bio. SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY? I mean, come on — you just know this book is going to be a blast. I’ve learned a bit more about the book in the months since first meeting Josh, and my excitement for the book has only grown. I was, therefore, beyond thrilled when Josh asked the MG Book Village to host his cover reveal.
Learn more about both SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY and Josh in the interview below, and then feast your eyes on his awesome cover!
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Before we get to the cover, can you tell us a bit about the book?
Absolutely! In a few words, SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY is a middle grade adventure/sci-fi story about kids in the future who go to school in space, get mysteriously attacked, lost, and captured by aliens (!), and have to find their way home. (Okay, maybe that was more than a few words.)
More specifically, the book is about the PSS 118—a “public school spaceship” orbiting Ganymede (one of Jupiter’s moons) hundreds of years from now. The story opens on a pretty familiar future: Social studies tests; spelling bees; end-of-the-year assemblies. Kids (that aren’t from Earth or Mars) go to school in these old, outfitted spaceships. (To get to the teacher’s lounge on the PSS 118, just head past the library, science lab, and infirmary; go down to the lower level using the stairs by the gym; and it’s just beyond the gravity field generator. Can’t miss it. If you hit the secondary fusion reactor or are winding your way starboard, you’ve gone too far.)
But there aren’t any aliens. And there’s no light-speed travel.
Until there is.
When the school is attacked, Jack, Becka, and Ari—three seventh graders—make their way to the engine room, following cryptic messages that Jack is getting from his dad (the school’s recently-fired-for-tinkering-with-the-ship science teacher). Jack discovers that his dad built humanity’s first light-speed engine into the PSS 118—and has given Jack control over it. To save the ship, Jack catapults it hundreds of light years away…and into the clutches of the first aliens humans have ever seen.
It’s a zany story: Cranky cafeteria robots. Alien videogame arcades. Friendly (and not-so-friendly) sea dragons. But I wanted the world to be both familiar and different. And fun. I wanted it to be a lot of fun.
What led you to write a story about kids in space?
You know—I’ve always loved space stories. (Still do.) I was fairly obsessed with Star Wars as a kid. (Still am.) There’s just something so…transporting about them, whether they’re of the fantasy or the science fiction variety. And SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY has got a ton of the usual trappings of space stories, combined with, well, all sorts of nonsense.
Long story short: A number of years back, I was teaching middle school and thought, “Okay. What would I have wanted to read if I were sitting in those chairs?” And this book is the result.
Who did the artwork for your cover? What did you think when you first saw it?
The incredible cover illustration was done was Petur Antonsson (@peturantonsson), who’s done other wonderful middle grade covers as well. The colors! The framing! It’s got this movie poster quality to it, bursting with little easter egg-type details everywhere. I was so happy with the cover (and earlier concept drawings).
Were you at all involved in the process?
Yes—and I’d say that my involvement with the process more than met my expectations about what my involvement was going to be. My editor first sent along various concept drawings, each of which took the cover in different directions. And I was looped into the conversation about which of the concepts the stakeholders thought was the best fit for the book. I’ll confess that I was at first partial to a drawing that didn’t ultimately manifest as the cover—but I’m so glad the result is what it is.
Once the illustration direction was solidified, I was afforded the opportunity to give input/suggest details that I can absolutely see given form on the cover. And I’m super grateful that I was able to have a voice in the process.
Alright! Let’s check it out!
Can you tell us a little bit about at least one of those “little easter eggs” you mentioned?
Definitely. Becka’s over there on the right, spinning a dodge ball on her forefinger—not just because she’s the best seventh grade dodge ball player (which she is)—but because she’s the best zero-g dodge ball player in the class. Basically, if you like P.E., you’ll love it in zero gravity.
Awesome. When does the book come out and where can readers pre-order?
SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY will be out on March 5, 2019, from Lerner/Carolrhoda. You can find pre-order links on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and the other usual haunts. And it’s floating around on Goodreads over here. Thank you!
Joshua S. Levy was born and raised in Florida. After teaching middle school (yes, including seventh grade) for a little while, he went to law school. He lives with his wife and daughter in New Jersey, where he practices as a lawyer. Unfortunately, outer space doesn’t come up in court nearly as often as he’d like. Seventh Grade vs. the Galaxy is his first novel. You can find him online at http://www.joshuasimonlevy.com/ and on Twitter @JoshuaSLevy.