The Cybils panel was already feeling like distant and much-missed history when I read this nominated book. I read it anyway because a) it was nominated by Karen of Ms. Yingling Reads, whom I very much respect; b) there is visible diversity on the cover (and further research revealed that the author is Japanese-American as well); and c) the publisher was kind enough to send it to me to read. It’s now in both the library where I work and my kids’ school library.
Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn by Greg Leitich Smith. Roaring Brook Press, 2014.
Twelve-year-old Aidan lives and works at his family’s old hotel, the Mercury Inn at Cocoa Beach, Florida. It’s not the fanciest of places, but with a vintage feel and a good view of the shuttle launches, it has steady business. His best friend, Louis, lost a leg in a car accident that he swears happens because of a UFO. Aidan, Louis, and mystery guest Dru Tanaka are all watching when a planned shuttle launch is scrubbed due to something that looks a lot like another alien ship. Soon the three kids – and crotchety old hotel guest Mrs. Fleance – are caught up in a mystery adventure that involves hiding things in the giant hotel freezer and Aidan retrieving poolside tables and chairs from the bottom of the pool every morning. Aidan’s parents, while certainly present in his life, are just too busy to note what’s going on.
This is approachable sci-fi with relatable characters, fast-moving adventure, a pleasingly twisty plot and lots of humor. The diversity shown on the cover works well, too, being necessary for the plot without overwhelming the characters. At 214 pages, it’s a great length for kids just moving up to middle grade books or reluctant readers. Those who want their science fiction Epic or including off-world journeys might be disappointed – but for the kid who likes almost realistic fiction with lots of humor, this is just the thing.
Here are other silly adventures involving aliens I’ve reviewed:
Astronaut Academy by Dave Roman
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities by Mike Jung
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
What We Found in the Sofa and How It Changed the World by Henry Clark
Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke