cover image Alien Encounter

Alien Encounter

Charise Mericle Harper. Holt/Ottaviano, $12.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9621-7

In this big-hearted, fast-paced, and deadpan first book in the Sasquatch and Aliens series, Harper (the Just Grace books) introduces a pair of nine-year-old boys who are propelled into an adventure that may or may not involve otherworldly creatures. Anxiety-prone Morgan first meets new kid Lewis as Lewis is hanging from a tree by his underwear. After Morgan reluctantly rescues Lewis (whose family just bought a creepy motel), a tentative friendship is born. When the boys return to the scene of the "killer wedgie" for an "underpants picnic," they are terrified by a slimy alien life form. Harper introduces a crackling cast that includes parents, siblings, and a next-door neighbor who provides a possible explanation for the unexplained phenomena. Harper's journal-like blending of short chapters with humorous titles, comedic drawings, and lists succeeds to great effect, especially Morgan's penchant for creating acrostic poems in response to uncertain situations (an acrostic for "motel" begins "Murders could have happened here"). There's no tidy resolution, leaving room for discovery in the teased sequel. Ages 7%E2%80%9310. Agent: Amy Rennert, Amy Rennert Agency. (Apr.)