Lists: Alien Invasion!
By far one of the most familiar tropes in Science Fiction is that of aliens invading earth. It seems humankind finds it easy to imagine bug-eyed monsters of some kind or another coming to earth and possibly plotting some kind of take over. Whether peaceful or warlike, the elements of these encounters is the stuff of many SF stories, both for kids and adults. Here are a few of my favorite invasion stories for middle grade readers.
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (Hyperion, 2007) –Quite possibly one of the most entertaining alien stories to grace the shelves in years, when Gratuity “Tip” Tucci must write an essay for the time capsule, she recounts the bizarre tale of how the earth was invaded by aliens. These strange and almost comical aliens decide to remove most of human society to a few undesirable areas of land, while keeping a majority for themselves. But while this is bad enough, there are worse aliens on the way, and only Tip will be able to stop them! Along with a rogue alien self-named J.Lo and her cat, this will be an adventure no one will forget! A squarely middle grade novel with a perfect balance of light-hearted story telling and wild action scenes, along with some pointed social commentary. Dreamworks is slated to turn this book into a movie to be released in November 2014.
The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher (1967) An oldie but a goodie. This trilogy has been around the block and then some. The fact that it is still in print with these current nifty covers proves that it hasn’t fallen into obscurity the way so many earlier science fiction books have. Thirteen-year-old Will Parker lives in a far future where enormous alien Tripods control humanity through the use of “caps” applied around each person’s 14th birthday. Life in the small town Will lives in is quiet, peaceful, and very carefully controlled. Rather than be capped, Will runs away to join the resistance movement, and become involved in the battle against humankind’s alien oppressors. What will the final outcome be? The series consists of three books: The White Mountains (1967). The City of Gold and Lead (1967), and The Pool of Fire (1968). John Christopher went on to publish a prequel to the trilogy: When the Tripods Came (1988) which chronicles how the Tripods first took over the planet.
Animorphs by K. A. Applegate (Scholastic, 1996). Remember these? If you were a kid in the 1990s you could hardly avoid this popular series of stories that was all about alien invasion, and a group of kids given special abilities in order to fight the nefarious and sneaky invaders. Part invasion of the body-snatchers, part superhero, part tween drama, this series was accessible by a wide range of readers and prompted a lot of reluctant readers into trying their hand at some science fiction books. The series has recently been republished in part with new holographic covers and–interestingly–some updated references to make it more accessible to current readers. This huge series consisted of 54 books and 10 companion books–giving readers plenty to love and enjoy. For a full list of the titles try here. The book series was turned into a 26- episode TV series on Nickelodeon around the time the series was first out.
My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville (1989). Another series that has remained in print, Coville’s over-the-top series about a group of sixth-graders who discover that their teacher isn’t who they thought . . . and aliens might just be plotting to invade the earth! The other three books in this hilarious series are: My Teacher Fried My Brains (1991), My Teacher Glows in the Dark (1991), and My Teacher Flunked the Planet (1992). A great series for those who enjoy the lighter side of science fiction. Coville has regularly been a hit with reluctant reader fantasy and science fiction fans and this series is sure to please!
The Fallen Spaceman by Lee Harding (1982). An now for something completely obscure. And maybe not exactly an “invasion” as such, except for the residents of a small town where this giant space suit/vehicle crashes down. A small, human sized alien falls to earth in a giant metal “spaceman” suit when it becomes damaged. A young and curious boy investigates and becomes trapped within the suit, and two lives suddenly hang in the balance. It’s a story my mother read me when I was younger and I loved it, but it is very much out of print and rarely have I encountered others who have read it. Still, I couldn’t resist adding it to the list of books here.
Aliens are Coming! The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast by Meghan McCarthy (Knopf Books, 2006). Well, okay, technically this is a nonfiction book. But if we’re talking alien invasion, it’s almost essential to touch on H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1898) and the notorious radio play on Halloween 1938. Orson Welles adapted this classic SF novel into a radio play that updated references and made it sound like real news reports were coming in regarding an alien invasion from Mars. When it aired, it caused panic around the country when citizens thought the reported invasion from Mars was the real deal. Nothing quite captures the US cultural idea of alien invasion like it, and this lovely little nonfic text can make that experience accessible to a middle grade audience. Add this into the pile of books for the Animorph fan, or mention it to someone who has loved the True Meaning of Smekday. A great way to open up the reading experience, expose kids to some history and still stick to the theme!
And finish up, a strange little song about Alien Invasion, just . . .because!
What are your favorite invasion stories? Please share!