Reviews
Rolo the Pet Earthling
by Hans Ness
Reachers’ Choice Book Awards

This is a brilliant concept, with a compelling alien world and a captivating cast of weird and wonderful characters. ... Children will enjoy the story and laugh out loud as the pet earthlings are treated in the same way we treat our pet dogs.
Reedsy Discovery

Fresh and original, this witty and whimsical read will be a hit with middle grade readers and anyone who loves a creative and quirky story. ... Strong writing, prodigious world-building skills, and robust characterizations move this story along at warp speed. ... I didn’t want it to end.
The BookLife Prize

Rolo the Pet Earthling is an endearing middle grade romp accompanied by vibrant illustrations. ... Humor abounds throughout the story ... while there’s a quieter sentiment about belonging, individuality, and finding one’s place.
Booklife by Publishers Weekly

Ness’s whimsical sci-fi debut blends spirited shenanigans with a wacky world. On planet Blorx, Zira, a young, green alien with two antennae, adopts an adorable little earthling boy she names Rolo. Like any typical pet, Rolo learns to use a litter box, eats from his personal food bowl, and cowers in fear at the mere sight of the robo-vacuum. Life is perfect, until Rolo starts to grow up and wonder where he came from. After a day at the park spirals into a daring escape evading robot “earthling catchers,” Rolo gets lost—launching both him and Zira into a journey of self-discovery, filled with humor, adventure, and heart.

Ness brilliantly creates a charming, goofy world perfect for younger audiences. Planet Blorx features a variety of humorous creatures, such as the kiffy, who curls onto laps and makes a “chortling” sound if they like their owner, and Rolo’s pet quagling, a lovable creature with two arms, three legs, and one yellow eye. Ness leans into the delightful playfulness of earthling pet ownership, noting such details as the rivalry between earthlings and squirrels and how some earthlings train as championship “show earthlings.” These humorous elements captivate readers’ imaginations and set a lighthearted tone, but there is a deeper message to this joyful adventure.

The central characters’ emotional journey is stirring. Zira’s struggle to maintain a strong bond with her older sister after a family fracture sets the stage for the young alien to explore her loneliness and frustration, while Rolo, longing for independence and information about his origins, matures while learning to stand up for his needs. Their adversity teaches the value of altruism and truly listening to others—and portrays the comfort that good friendships can bring. Sofia Komarenko’s illustrations are striking, appealingly comic and at times icky, with the aliens rendered in amusingly mucus-hued green. Middle-grade readers eager to explore an imaginative new world of aliens, adventure, and affection will delight in this fun-spirited sci-fi.

Takeaway: Earthlings make remarkable pets for aliens in this lively sci-fi adventure.

Comparable Titles:
Geoff Rodkey’s We’re Not From Here
Bruce Coville’s Sixth-Grade Alien series
Midwest Book Review
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer

Rolo the Pet Earthling turns ideas of aliens, humans, and pets upside down as it presents the story of a human boy who grows up being alien Zira’s pet, but then begins to wonder about his origins.

Advanced elementary to middle-grade readers will find Rolo’s story a compelling take on the usual pet or alien fantasy when Rolo’s self-inspection is sparked by an animal rights protest:

Until this moment, he had never really wondered why he was a pet. All his life, he had been a pet. And all the other earthlings too. And all the generations before them, and before them. But was it always that way? Why did no one ever talk about that? Was it a secret?

The adventure unfolds as Rolo escapes, uncovers the truth about his origins and status, and then faces some difficult decisions about how he wants to live.

On her own mission to find her pet before the earthling-catchers do, Zira finds her life and perspective changed, as well, by her relationship with Rolo and the reality of his world.

Hans Ness crafts an intriguing adventure, while illustrator Sofia Komarenko peppers the story with colorful embellishments to add further value and attraction to the engaging, creative tale.

Rolo’s probe of his past reveals many thought-provoking questions about animals, pets, rights, and wrongs that will also lend to important discussions in classrooms and between adults and kids.

Libraries and readers won’t want to miss Rolo’s adventures. They are heartwarming, fun, and thought-provoking:

“Cut the Leash!” He looked up wistfully at the bright star, the one he imagined was Earth. He now felt foolish to think he could go there. Earth might not be real. Or it might be an awful place. And how would he even get there? Or find it? He had gotten his hopes up for nothing. And he didn’t even know about Earth until today, so why was it suddenly so important?
Kirkus Reviews

In Ness’s debut middle-grade novel, an alien keeps a human as a pet.

Zira, a young, green-skinned “blorxling” with antennae, has “been begging her mom for decades” for a pet. She asks her older brother, Lazro, to convince their mother to let her get an earthling. Lazro does so, but keeps it a secret, as does Riffa, Zira’s older sister. Zira is surprised with an earthling named Rolo, who’s content in his situation. He’s fed “goopy food” and walks his own tiny green pet, Quiggles. One day, Rolo sees “animal rights activists” with signs saying that “Earthlings Have Rights Too.” He wonders: Were there always earthlings on Blorx? Later, he asks his earthling friends, “don’t you ever wonder if maybe there’s something more?” He unintentionally draws the attention of earthling catchers (“Animal Control Force”) for violating a civil regulation that “requires earthlings to be under direct supervision of their owners or wranglers at all times in public.” Rolo flees, but the earthling catchers, Zira, and Riffa chase after him; the chase gives readers an overview of Blorx and the military might of the Animal Control Force. Eventually, Rolo and company meet Grandam Zananna, a curator at a science museum who shares information about earthlings.

Young pet owners will easily understand moments that parallel how real-life human beings relate to their pets; early in the story, for instance, Rolo is pictured in a dark “cardboard box, with just a little ambient light shining from the twelve round air holes near the top.” Kids will be kept in suspense throughout Rolo’s adventures, however, and remain curious about his fate. Ness’ story has unimaginative details at times, as with place names such as “Blorfrica,” “Blurope,” and “Blasia.” However, Komarenko’s cartoon images will delight children with their colorful and creative renderings of blorxlings and other creatures.

A well-illustrated and often clever adventure with entertaining twists and turns.
Online Book Club
Shanesha Sammerson

Rolo the Pet Earthling by Hans Ness is a captivating tale that ventures into the imaginative realm of Blorx, a land where earth species, including humans, serve as cherished pets. The author’s concept of humans as pets in this alien world sparks curiosity and provokes thought. It’s an engaging premise that’s sure to intrigue both young and adult readers alike.

At the heart of the story is Rolo, a child when taken in by the young Blorxling girl Zira. As the years pass, Rolo’s inquisitive nature leads him to question his existence and ponder his purpose beyond being a pet. This introspective journey is sensitively portrayed, offering a valuable lesson to young readers about the importance of self-discovery and the pursuit of truth.

The writing itself is a standout feature of this book. Hans Ness displays a commendable mastery of language, ensuring a seamless and error-free reading experience. The narrative flows smoothly, making it accessible to readers of various ages and reading levels. The author’s ability to convey complex ideas in a digestible manner is commendable, making the book not only entertaining but also intellectually stimulating. There are no negative parts in this book.

Complementing the engaging narrative are the vividly rendered illustrations that adorn the pages. The vibrant colors and detailed imagery enhance the reading experience, drawing young readers deeper into the fantastical world of Blorx. These visuals are not only aesthetically pleasing but also serve to stimulate the imagination and bring the narrative to life.

While the book is primarily targeted at children aged 8 and older, its themes of self-discovery and the quest for truth resonate with readers of all ages. The story encourages critical thinking and curiosity, values that are essential for personal growth and development.

In conclusion, Rolo the Pet Earthling is a well-crafted children’s book that combines a unique and thought-provoking premise with skillful storytelling. Its impeccably edited prose, coupled with the visually appealing illustrations, make it a standout addition to any young reader’s collection. This book deserves a resounding 5 out of 5 stars for its ability to entertain, educate, and inspire. It’s a must-read for anyone who appreciates imaginative storytelling and the power of introspection.