Ahoy there me mateys! Blustery winds and crazy seas are still severely limiting the time I have to read. So here be a Tidings post with a twist! The First Mate has been reading like a fiend. I
ordered asked him to write a review of something he recently read because I be going through withdraw and NEED to hear about books. At the end of his review I will decide whether the book is kept in the hold for me future reading pleasure or be keelhauled into the watery depths. Hope ye enjoy!
From the First Mate:
Like many Americans who grew up in the 1980s, my middle school had a yearly book fair. Though my memory is firmly insistent that it was the “Scholastic Book Fair,” ample evidence exists that many other publishers’ books were available at the book fairs my school held while I was there. Those who were lucky enough to experience a middle school book fair, well, I don’t need to tell you how awesome they were. And those who missed out? I am truly sorry; the middle school book fair was absolutely the highlight of the year. From wandering around the gym converted into a makeshift bookstore stuffed entirely with books appealing one’s own age demographic to grabbing way too many books and having to talk oneself out of the lesser items of the haul. And then the surprise that you didn’t get to actually take any of the books that day; they’re just display copies that’ll be going to the next school and you’ll get your books in two weeks, which might as well be ten years because you want to read them NOW! And then two weeks go by and your teacher hands out plastic-wrapped bundles of books to all the students who were lucky enough to have ordered books. You get to see your books (finally!) but can’t actually open the package because they give it to you during school (the torture!) and it just sits in your bag for when you finally get to open it on the bus (wait till you’re home, no way!) and can’t decide which one you’re going to dive into first. Such good times.
My memory of the 1989 book fair was that about half my class ordered My Teacher is an Alien. I no longer remember if we were all seduced by that awesome cover (two kids peeping in on their teacher ripping a human mask off of his alien head) or if there was some other reason. Regardless it was the talk of the school on the day of the fair and then again after we all got our books. Two years later, I picked up the third book in the series, My Teacher Glows in the Dark, at another fair, never having read the second book in the series, My Teacher Fried My Brains, because I was young and had somehow missed it. Somehow in the intervening two years, many of my classmates were less interested in the adventures of the series, though I remember talking to a few about the third book. By the next year I was the only one I knew who was still reading the series. It always has struck me as strange that an entertainment went from being overwhelmingly popular with a group of kids to almost completely forgotten three years later.
At any rate, thirty years later I still have my copy of My Teacher is an Alien and I was looking for a fun nostalgic read. Did it hold up? Yup. Unequivocally, if you’re able to evaluate the book as written for a particular demographic, it’s a fantastic book. At 160 pages with large type, it flies by. The characters are really fun. Several of the scenes have a pretty good level of tension. And the ending put a huge smile on my face. It really is the childhood fantasy of proving that the mean substitute teacher doesn’t belong here and actually doing something about it.
I enjoyed reading this one so much that I’m probably going to reread the others in the series when I find them in my boxes of books.
Highly recommended anyone who can put themselves in the proper frame of mind to appreciate children’s literature. Avoid if such a frame of mind is incomprehensible to you.
Yer Captain’s Verdict:
KEEP! Arrrr! I adored the book fairs when I was young and was always sad that I didn’t have all the loot to buy every book I wanted. I also loved looking through the catalogues and circling the books that sounded interesting. I knew this book existed back in the day but somehow never read it. I don’t know why because it sounded so good. The only two Coville books I have ever read both involved unicorns. It be time to remedy the mistake of not having read this awesome sounding alien book. Arrr!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
Sixth grade is just out of this world!
Susan Simmons can tell that her new substitute teacher is really weird. But she doesn’t know how weird until she catches him peeling off his face — and realizes that “Mr. Smith” is really an alien!
At first no one will believe her except Peter Thompson, the class brain. When Peter and Susan discover Mr. Smith’s horrible plans for their classmates, they know they have to act fast. Only they can get rid of their extraterrestrial visitor — and save the rest of the sixth-grade class from a fate worse than math tests!
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