Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"




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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Aliens Ate My Homework by Bruce Coville

If a pudgy, nerdy kid took a creative writing class, he might come up with a plot just like this one. Coville, of course, is not a kid, and he makes this goofy plot work well enough to tweak a lot of tween’s humor and imagination.

Rod Allbright takes a lot of grief from the classroom bully: BKR. And BKR is not your average bully. It is not that he is particularly sadistic; what makes him an extra-special bully is the odd fact that he is an alien.

Rod finds this out when a small alien ship breaks through his window, and expels several tiny aliens who deputize him to help them in their inter-galactic mission to capture a criminal hiding out on Earth… who turns out to be none other than BFK, disguised as an earthling child.


The bumps in the road on the way to a solidly safe tween read are as follows: Rod’s greatly troubled by the loss of his father. He has no idea what happened to him, other than a reference to the fact that his father lied to his mother and is gone.

One of the aliens comes from a planet that has no gender, and makes funny and vague references to this fact. It’s all harmless enough to play fast and loose with gender amongst aliens on another planet, but considering the state of gender politics in our culture, I’m always suspicious when this idea that gender-is-meaningless-for some-creatures gets trotted out. Tweens (in some environments, anyway) probably wouldn’t be too aware of any of this, but the intrinsic nature of our gender and its importance is a topic I don't want adults with certain views tinkering with even if it's quite subtle.

So… it wasn’t a total surprise to my critical eye when the aliens have a discussion in which they state that empathy is the thing that separates animals from humans (and intelligent aliens). It's a materialistic view of the universe that brushes close enough to the truth to fool a non-critically-thinking tween. Empathy is a fine emotion, especially if it impels someone to use his free-will to act compassionately upon it. But the difference between humans and animals is the soul made in God’s image! And that not only separates humans from animals but allows for the divinely-inspired virtues like mercy, forgiveness, and self-sacrificial love/charity.

Empathy vs. God’s image. One of those differences that makes all the difference.

Safety Rating: 2 Vatican Flags

See: The Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Man: 355
In the image of God
: 356; 357; 358
Male and Female: 383

2 comments:

Meredith July 13, 2009 at 7:50 AM  

Thank you for this great blog, it will be so helpful to so many!! What are your age ranges for the classifications, ie: mid-tweens, older tweens, etc. I'm also in the Pacific NW, welcome to the blogging world :) Many blessings and thanks again!

Tween Lit Crit July 13, 2009 at 2:53 PM  

Meredith,
You're welcome! My age range I'm thinking, roughly, is 8-9 for young tweens; 10 - 11 mid tweens; 12 - 14 older tweens.... I'm generally looking at reading level since I try to cover content thoroughly, although if an author introduces mature content to a younger reading level, I bump it up, or mention it in the review.
Hope that helps. Blessing to you as well...

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