I don’t remember the first time I read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (probably sometime during my high school or college years), but every year that I have been teaching eighth grade I make it my mission to put this little book in the hands of just the right reader. I love it when the magic happens and I can revel with another reader at the myriad of improbable events and and snicker any mention of the number 42.
If for some reason you have version the many versions of this classic sci if comedy (Listen to the radio show! Watch the movie or televison show! Play the video game! Peruse the comics!), let me introduce you.
Poor Arthur Dent is a befuddled human who is fascinated by digital watches and worried about all the wrong things. It simply doesn’t matter is city hall is going to bulldoze your house if Vogons are waiting up above to demolish the Earth to make way for a hyperspatial express route. Fortunately, his friend Ford Prefect is not from Guilford, but is from a small planet somewhere near the vicinity of Betelgeuse. Ford also writes for the best-selling Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. When the Vogons show up, Ford is past ready to hitch a ride away from Earth, and he takes Arthur with him.
As they make their way across the universe, they escape the horrifying effects of Vogons poetry (while strapped into poetry appreciation chairs), survive being thrust into the vacuum of space (improbable to the odds of two to the power of two hundred and seventy-six thousand, seven hundred and nine to one against), are picked up by the the Heart of Gold (stolen by Ford’s cousin Zaphod Beeblebrox who just happens to be President of the Imperial Galactic Government), and visit the mythical planet of Magrathea (which designed the Earth as an experiment to discover the question to the Life, the Universe and Everything. The answer is 42.).
Believe it or not, these seemingly random and improbable events (along with many more) come together in a way that is both brilliant and hilarious. After all, I’ve never laughed at a squashed sperm whale before, but it is the characters that I love and remember the most. Arthur may be bumbling, but he manages to surprise even Ford on occasion and even says something more intelligent than “tea” every once in a while. Ford may be a suave travel writer (or at least he thinks he is), but he is a loyal friend and cousin when it counts. Zaphod may be stupid, or it may be just an act. Even he doesn’t know why he does the things he does, but a secret brain surgery has convinced him there is a method to his madness. It’s a good thing he has Trillian, a mathematician and astrophysicist, to look after him. My favorite, though, has to be Marvin, the depressed robot. You are bound to feel better about your situation after spending time with him.
Quick, grab a copy of Hitchhiker’s and a cu of tea and settle in for the ride of a lifetime. The journey can continue with the ever growing series, including The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe, and Everything, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, Mostly Harmless, and now And Another Thing written by Eoin Colfer. If all else fails, DON’T PANIC keep your towel handy.
PS -There are only 177 days left until Towel Day on May 25.
Kay Jernigan McGriff teaches 8th grade language arts in southern Indiana. When she is not pushing books on her students, she can be found swimming, running, biking, and scrapbooking. You can find her on her blog Mrs. McGriff’s Reading Blog at
or on Twitter @kaymcgriff. Happy Reading!