Flashback Fridays: Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me . . .

You’re a kid visiting your Grandma in upstate New York.  It’s a starry night when you meet an alien by Grandfather’s apple tree.  Seems he’s landed on earth and stuck until he can get some more Zurianomatichrome wire and head home to Martinea.  You’re sure to become the best of friends as you try to help him get back to his home planet.

Do you remember: 

Spaceship Under the Apple Tree by Louis Slobodkin (MacMillan, 1952)

Prior to mankind actually getting into space, there were plenty of writers imagining who we might meet from out there in the cosmos.  This early series featuring young Eddie and the alien Marty is one of the more charming stories to imagine a human/alien encounter.  Like The Wonderful Flight To Mushroom Planet,  the science fiction elements in this are very much out of date and unrealistic.  But that doesn’t keep it from being a treasure of childhood science fiction.  Eddie is a young boy fascinated by the stars and outer space.  He’s spending the summer at his Grandmother’s farm in the Hudson Valley region of New York.  The farm is full of apple trees, and one remarkable night Eddie meets an astonishing visitor under one of those trees.  The bossy, self-important alien claims he is a scientist who has come to study Earth, but his spaceship has broken down.  Without more Zurianomatichrome wire, he’ll never be able to get home.

Eddie is more than willing to help the alien (Marty) out and the two of them wind up on quite an adventure before Marty is ultimately able to head back into space.  But wait!  There’s more!  Marty and Eddie go on to have more adventures together: The Space Ship Returns to the Apple Tree (1958),  The Three-Seated Space Ship (1962), Round Trip Space Ship (1968), and Spaceship in the Park (1972).  The second book in the series features Marty returning with his new space vehicle, and the boys decide to go on a tour of the United States together, despite the fact that Marty doesn’t quite know all the ins and outs  of driving his new space ship.  The other books I’ve never read and sadly there is not a lot of information out there about them.  (Anyone have copies and can give a quick synopsis?)

Louis Slobodkin, not only wrote this group of science fiction books for young readers, he also provided all of the illustrations (which really help to make these books so memorable).  of course, is rarely remembered for this particular boy meets alien adventure series.  You can see some of the art included in the pages here.  Of course, Slobodkin’s distinctive style might catch your eye because you’re familiar with his other, more famous illustrations.   He’s far better known for his art in James Thurber’s  Many Moons (1943) which won him the 1944 Caldecott medal.   Or you might recognize his illustrations for The Hundred Dresses (1944) and The Moffats.

But Louis Slobodkin wasn’t just a children’s book writer and illustrator, he was also a sculptor!  Seems like he was an amazing individual to know and work with.  My favorite bit I discovered while Internet delving was this bit from his Wiki page (I can’t swear it’s fact but it’s a great tidbit): “He worked then as an elevator operator to sustain his living,  . . . he would deliberately get his elevator “stuck” between floors so he could read his books.”

If you’d like to learn more about this aritst/author/sculptor, there’s an entire Website dedicated to honoring his work :  Io Sono .  Definitely worth checking out.

Did you read this series?  What did you think of the books?  Comments welcome!

Image from Io Sono (slobodkin.net)

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on September 28, 2013, in Flashback Fridays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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