cover image The Area 51 Files (The Area 51 Files #1)

The Area 51 Files (The Area 51 Files #1)

Julie Buxbaum, illus. by Lavanya Naidu. Delacorte, $14.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-42946-4

When her grandmother, with whom she’s lived almost all her life, moves into a retirement home, 12-year-old Sky Patel-Baum, who reads as of South Asian descent, is sent to stay with her only other living relative. Uncle Anish is second-in-command of Area 51, a secret haven for “Break Throughs,” or extraterrestrials on Earth. A place of intense security, numerous regulations, and no contact with the outside world, Area 51 hasn’t seen a new resident in five years, but Sky quickly makes friends with Elvis, a shape-shifting alien who appears to Sky as a brown-skinned boy. Sky’s arrival coincides with the mysterious disappearance of several Zdstrammar aliens, and her uncle Anish seems the most likely suspect. Now, Sky and Elvis must clear Anish’s name and find the missing aliens. Populated with human agents sporting names such as Belcher and Fartz, good-natured humor lands alongside imaginatively rendered extraterrestrials (including a living cubist representation), while quick pacing keeps things light. B&w illustrations by Naidu (Home Is in Between) both illuminate and expand upon this tongue-in-cheek mystery adventure, a middle grade debut from Buxbaum (Year on Fire). Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Jennifer Joel, ICM Partners. (Sept.)