Harry Newberry and the Raiders of the Red Drink
By Mel Gilden
Henry Holt and Company, 1989
Harry Newberry and the Raiders of the Red Drink is a children's science fiction adventure. As one might expect from Mel Gilden, author of the popular Surfing Samurai Robots series and Outer Space and All that Junk, this book is rather silly.
Harry is a big comic book fan -- well, the fan of one comic book, really. Some might say that the Tuatara is a sub-par superhero, given that her mask is made out of an old paper bag and her jet pack appears to be made from two old milk bottles strapped to her back. Harry thinks it makes her relatable. Anyway, she is responsible for single-highhandedly saving the world's chocolate malt reserves, so what's not to love?
One day, while at the local comic book store, Harry sees the Tuatara in person -- and not some comic promotion event either; she saves a local child from being crushed by a falling spaceship, right there in the parking lot. This is big news for Harry, both because he had no idea that superheroes were actually real, and also because some hints are dropped that Harry's mother might have some connection to the Tuatara. When he confronts her, he finds that his grandfather was the inventor of the popular Simpson's Fruit Drink, and perhaps, an even more sinister concoction.... The Red Drink.
Harry goes on an epic adventure, one that will take him from the dungeons of the Flat Earth Map Pizza Company (to purchase and eat the necessary secret map, of course) to an orbiting space station (where he thwarts some interstellar art fraud). Along the way, he will learn life lessons about the importance of trusting family (for god's sake, don't), making fruit punch (likewise), and the cheese blight (a mixed blessing).
This is one of Mel Gilden's wackier books, on par with Outer Space and All that Junk, and easily surpassing his M is for Monster series. It has pleasing overtones of Daniel Pinkwater or M.T. Anderson's Whales on Stilts! series, and is likely to be enjoyed by anyone with a fine sense of the goofy. If you have the misfortune of being an adult, I would recommend reading Surfing Samurai Robots instead (or, at least, first), but for younger readers, Harry Newberry and the Raiders of the Red Drink is an excellent introduction to Mel Gilden.