cover image Vacationers from Outer Space

Vacationers from Outer Space

Chronicle Books, Edward Valfre. Chronicle Books, $15.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1717-2

Photographer Valfre, who chronicled a cross-country drive in Backseat Buckaroo, takes his camera on another family road trip. Humans aren't alone on the highway, however; a ""flying saucer"" sails through a diner, and a plastic ""robot scout"" detects aliens. Dramatic duotone photos introduce the narrator, a boy ""space buckaroo"" wearing a plastic astronaut's helmet and standing in a rocky landscape. ""When faced with invasion from outer space,"" the hero says, ""Save planet Earth and try not to get too dirty."" Yet the aliens--represented by kitschy ceramic statuettes--mean no harm. Apparently, TV signals in space have given Earth a reputation as ""one of the greatest amusement parks in the galaxy."" The tale ends on a philosophical note (""The whole universe is on one big journey to nobody knows where"") that speaks to vacationers from all galaxies. Valfre displays a quirky, adult sensibility: his photos, with their murky blue-black and white contrast, resemble a spaghetti-western ""night"" scene shot through a filter in broad daylight; ominous clouds rush through a dark sky, and a Milky Way of thick cream spins in a cup of black coffee. Acid-green and electric-blue pages, sprinkled with stars and clip-art UFOs, also appeal to retro tastes. This surreal travelogue, atmospheric and fashionably designed, will captivate grown-up fans of Americana--but it's meant for the whole (post-) nuclear family. Ages 4-up. (Dec.)