Aliens on Vacation (a Review)

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Aliens on Vacation (a Review) from

The concept which begins this story is one used in many mid-grade stories (parents can’t avoid having to leave for a long period of time and have to ‘dump’ the main character on an unfamiliar relative/friend). However, this time there is a whole new, funny twist to the idea.

David’s parents are busy professionals and when they both have to go on extended work assignments, he is sent to spend the summer with his grandmother who he doesn’t know. She lives in a small town on the other side of the country and is known locally as the weird, hippy lady.

Even the business she runs is weird – the Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast is not your normal three story quaint Victorian house: “The house was jet black, with huge murals of comets and stars and planets on each side, painted on with what looked like glittery nail polish. I wondered if I would have to submit a formal application to be the town freak, or if being related to Grandma meant I would be automatically awarded the title.”

As soon as David (aka Scrub) enters the house, he becomes part of Grandma’s secret and while he takes all the strange happenings in his stride, he tries to work out how to fit in with the local kids and get through summer. At first, he simply thinks the guests are just really weird, but his polite helpfulness earns his Grandma’s trust and pride.

Gradually, he is entrusted with more responsibility, something that is new to him: “And, okay, so maybe it was also a little bit nice to be asked. My parents never really asked for my help back home. Maybe to take the dog out or whatever, but not for something they really needed.” And then Grandma lets him in on her big secret.

Soon, David is too busy helping out to have time to worry about fitting in, and begins to make friends with Amy; a girl who  is not surprised by any of the strange folk coming to and from the house. But how will he keep Amy from discovering the truth?

Over the summer, David comes to love and appreciate Grandma and her amazing secret; so much so that when it all comes dangerously close to being shut down forever, he comes up with a plan to save it – even when it means taking some public humiliation.

Touched on throughout the story is David’s relationship with his parents and his rivalry with Tyler, a ‘friend’ back home. As the story unfolds, we see David gaining confidence, and understanding more about his father. By the (very nicely tied up) end, he no longer feels the need to try to beat Tyler at everything.

This was such a fun story to read – especially the initial parts where David fails to notice that the guests are really aliens in disguise. Grandma is a delightful character: caring, accepting, positive, wise and slightly loopy! The alien visitors are wonderfully ‘human’: some are shy, some are friendly, some are interested in experiencing all they can, some are critical of everything – you can tell the author had a lot of fun imagining all their different alien features.

I’m pleased to see the fun continues with Alien on a Rampage and Aliens in Disguise. Also, the author’s website says Aliens on Vacation might be turned into a move – I certainly hope so as I would love to see it!

Find It in Your Library!

  • TitleAliens on Vacation
  • Author: Clete Barrett Smith
  • Publisher: Disney (Hyperion Books), 2011
  • ISBN: 978-1-4231-3363-6
About Vanessa Hatley-Owen

A book lover and children's story writer from New Zealand.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” - Dr Seuss.

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