Aliens on Vacation

Book Reviews

Aliens on Vacation.
Smith, Clete Barrett (author). Illustrated by Christian Slade.
May 2011. 272p. Disney/Hyperion, hardcover, $16.99 (9781423133636). Grades 5-8.
REVIEW. First published May 15, 2011 (Booklist).

David—better known to his friends as Scrub—is a long way from his sunny Florida home the summer before his seventh-grade year, having been dumped by his ultrabusy parents in gloomy Washington State. He stays with his grandmother, Sunshine, who runs a dumpy inn in her huge home called the Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast. Scrub soon realizes that not all is as it seems at the B and B when he accidentally walks into a restricted restroom that has a urinal on the ceiling. Also, his grandmother’s guests struggle with the finer points of the English language and exhibit an otherworldly eccentricity. When a strange blue light from under his closet door wakes Scrub one night, he can no longer deny his suspicions about his grandmother and her borders. The plot is nothing new, but Smith, a teacher and screenplay writer, delivers a first novel about being a stranger in a strange land that many middle-schoolers will find funny and relatable. Slade adds a few goofy touches in the black-and-white spot art. — Erin Anderson

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Smith, Clete Barrett.  Aliens on Vacation; illus. by Christian Slade.  Disney Hyperion, 2011.  272p.  (The Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast)
ISBN 978-1-4231-3363-6 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys      R Gr. 4-6

Scrub is pretty sure that his already stunted social life is not going to be helped by spending the summer with his grandmother at her rural guest accommodation, the Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast. He certainly didn’t expect his whole life to be upended, however, as it is when he realizes that his grandma isn’t running a cutely titled theme destination but actually hosting real, albeit disguised, aliens, most of whom just want a fun vacation on a primitive planet. Familiar with what it feels like to not fit in, Scrub ably adapts to the job of helping his grandmother keep her business a secret, while also showing the “tourists” a good time. Along the way, he also experiences his first real crush, learns more about his family, and gains a better understanding of his own quiet strengths. Smith balances these milestones with plenty of oddball humor, mostly in the form of Scrub’s efforts to transform the visitors—for example, giant tree-like beings—into ordinary-looking kids with little more than stage makeup and lots of used clothing at his disposal. Short chapters and cheerful illustrations at the beginning of each chapter make the sometimes-complex philosophical debates about interplanetary travel and the rights of humans as “owners” of the Earth more accessible. Readers will likely be as disappointed as Scrub when the end of summer arrives and he has to leave behind his new girl, his beloved grandma, and, of course, the endlessly entertaining stream of aliens who need his disguising skills.  AS

Horn Book Guide:
Smith, Clete Barrett Aliens on Vacation
   253 pp. Hyperion 2011. ISBN 978-1-4231-3363-6
(3) 4-6
Scrub is spending the summer with the grandmother he barely knows in Washington State. Although he’s surprised (and embarrassed) by the hokey space theme of her bed and breakfast, he soon gets an even bigger shock: the patrons are extraterrestrials. Humorous descriptions of the aliens and of Scrub’s antics to evade the town’s nosy sheriff enhance the accessible story.


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