The summer reading theme this year is “Dream Big,” and we have tied in lots of space decorations, stories and activities. Most popular among these are aliens – alien stories, crafts, games, and prizes. We even have rubber ducky aliens. So it seems like the perfect time for me to tout some of my favorite new reads starring beloved, or destructive, invaders from outer space.
I got a kick out of Boom by Mark Haddon, who is best known for his popular adult book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This sci-fi adventure is full of diary-of-a-wimpy-kid style humor, car and motorcycle chases, big blasts, space travel, even romance – it’s just got everything. James (“Jimbo”) is a typical kid who is having some trouble in school, fights regularly with his annoying older sister, and often feels misunderstood. Luckily, his best friend Charlie is right there with him. When the two of them spy on staff in the teachers’ lounge at school, they overhear a mysterious conversation which leads to kidnappings, men in black, and a harrowing adventure for Charlie, Jimbo, and his sister, who turns out to be not quite as bad as he thought. I listened to this rollicking tale on audiobook, which made it easier to understand Jimbo’s British lingo.
Boom reminded me of Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday, which has gained a large following of young readers, teens, college students and science fiction fans in general since it was published in 2007. It has its own website: smekday.com. The book is just plain weird and very hard to explain, but the gist is that Gratuity Tucci (nicknamed Tip, hee hee) is traveling in an alien-engineered car, with an alien, across the country searching for her mother who was abducted when the Boov took over Earth and renamed it Smekland. Tip and her new friend, an AWOL alien Boov named J.Lo, discover something that might stop the Earth’s total destruction, but it isn’t going to be an easy fix. Readers who love strange creatures and creative storylines will devour this 400-pager, and come up looking for Rex’s newest book, Cold Cereal.
The Daniel X series by James Patterson is in our young adult collection and will appeal to kids who love the Men in Black movies. Four books are out so far, plus a graphic novel. Daniel is an alien hunter, and the Earth happens to be quite infested with them. He’s only fifteen but has some amazing super powers, including the ability to get anything he needs simply by imagining it. Fast paced with plenty of explosions, slimy aliens, big guns and cute teenage girls, Daniel X is a perfect summer series for middle school guys who are tired of “reading list” books.
Children’s librarians Jessica Long and Rachel Carnes both recommended Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith. When David, aka Scrub, is shipped off to his estranged grandma’s house for the summer, he doesn’t know what to expect. She runs The Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast, which seems like a silly name until he meets the boarders, including a family walking down the hall on all fours, a little boy with weird lumps all over his head, and other guests that are almost perfectly round. The B & B really is intergalactic! With visitors arriving from all over outer space, Scrub spends his summer vacation helping his grandma making them look human and trying not blow their cover while they take a holiday on our primitive planet.
Laddertop by Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game, is the first volume in a new graphic novel series, co-authored with the writer’s daughter Emily Janice Card and with energetic illustrations by Honoel Ibardolaza. Set in a future Earth, kids who are smart and meet certain criteria (like being short) are chosen to attend the elite Laddertop Academy. Extraterrestrials who visited the planet years ago constructed four ladders that have become portals to the stars, rising 36,000 miles into space. Now humans can use raw materials from asteroids and even begin to colonize space. However, much of what happens at Laddertop remains a mystery to everyone left down below. Why did “the Givers” really build those ladders? And why must children be recruited to operate them? Nevertheless, it is feisty Azure’s dream to go to Laddertop, and her best friend Robbi’s secret dream as well. When both girls are chosen to go through the training and test phase, some inexplicable, strange things begin happening. This volume came out in the fall, and I hope we will not have to wait too long for the next issue.
For a more informational approach, kids will love poring over Allen Gray’s Alienology, a combination of fact and fiction (or supposed fiction, depending on where you stand in the alien debate) packed with illustrations, textured pictures, lift-the-flaps, guides, diagrams and charts. The library has one copy that can be checked out and one that stays here on our “novelty book” cart with other interactive and pop-up books. So blast off to the library for close encounters of the literary kind. Summer reading prizes and activities continue through the end of July.
Reviewed by Jennifer Adams, column printed in The Mercury, June 17, 2012