The aliens have finally made contact! But when the first ambassador from another planet arrives, he insists that his son, Pleskit Meenom, be treated like any other citizen on Earth.
Which is why Pleskit has become the first purple kid in Ms. Weintraub's sixth grade class.
For Tim Tompkins, who has been waiting his entire life to meet an alien, this is like a dream come true. But when Pleskit invites Tim back to the embassy and they stumble across a plan to sabotage the alien mission, Tim's dream becomes a life-threatening nightmare.
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Chapter 1 [Tim]: Ms. Weintraub Drops a Bombshell
I just wanted to have a friend. The part about almost getting killed and kind of saving the world happened by accident.
It's not like I didn't have any friends. I may be kind of nerdy, but I get along with people okay, if you don't count Jordan Lynch. But I wanted a best friend, someone who was my total bud, someone I could really talk to.
Linnsy Vanderhof, who lives in the apartment two floors up, used to be my best friend. We've been in the same class since kindergarten, but she doesn't like to be seen with me much these days because, socially speaking, she's much higher on the food chain than I am.
Actually, Linnsy is just plain higher than me, since she's sort of the class Amazon, taller and tougher than any of the other girls, and most of the boys, too. That's one reason I'm glad we grew up together; it makes her more tolerant of me, which means she's less likely to punch me really hard. Mostly what I get is a sock on the bicep when she thinks I've done something stupid. She calls this "a little punchie-wunchie, as a reminder not to be such a dorkie-workie." She doesn't hit me all that hard, but sometimes I worry that a few thousand punchie-wunchies -- which is what I figure I'll have had by the time we're seniors -- will turn my bicep into mush.
Which it sort of is anyway.
Anyway, I'm used to Linnsy. The real royal pain in my butt is Jordan Lynch, who's only been in our class for two years, ever since he got kicked out of the fancy private school where he used to go. Great system, huh? The kid is so bad they can't pay a school to take him, so we get him. It's too bad, because if you could pay a school to take him, I'd start a magazine drive or something to cover the costs.
Jordan sits in the back row, three desks behind me. Linnsy sits two desks over. Our teacher, Ms. Weintraub, sits at the front of the room -- or would, if she were ever sitting, which she's mostly not, since she's almost always up and doing something. I really like her. She makes things interesting.
Also, she's kind of pretty.
I made the mistake of saying that to Linnsy once. (I still get to talk to her because our mothers take turns driving us to school in the morning.) She gave me a little punchie-wunchie and said, "Tim, beneath that dorky exterior beats the heart of someone from another world."
That was me. Tim Tompkins, sixth grade alien, weirdest kid in the class.
School had only been going for a week -- just long enough for me to have serious doubts about whether I was going to live through the year -- when Ms. Weintraub called us together for "an important announcement."
I struggled out of the headlock Jordan had me in and started for my desk. I figured the "important announcement" was probably about lunch money or eraser duty or something, but it was a good excuse to get away from Jordan.
Once we had settled down, Ms. Weintraub said, "I'm sure you all followed the big news this summer."
"You mean about the aliens?" I cried.
Linnsy groaned, and I could tell by the look on her face that if I was sitting closer to her I'd be getting "a little punchie-wunchie" right then. But I couldn't help myself. Ever since the first time I saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind (I've watched it forty-seven times in all), I've been waiting for aliens to contact us.
So when the president announced in July that Earth had received a message from the Interplanetary Trading Federation, I had been one of the happiest kids in the world. I figured it was just about the biggest news in history. So what else could Ms. Weintraub have been thinking of?
I guess the others didn't feel the same way. At least, Jordan didn't. "Space Boy strikes again," he snickered, using one of his three favorite nicknames for me. (The other two are Nerdbutt and Dootbrain.)
"Actually, Tim is right," said Ms. Weintraub, smiling slightly. "The announcement is about the aliens."
"They didn't declare war, did they?" asked Melissa Farkis. She sounded like she was about to cry. But then, Melissa usually sounded like she was about to cry.
Ms. Weintraub laughed. "No, Melissa. The aliens haven't done anything to disprove their claim that they're friendly."
I could scarcely keep myself in my seat. "So what's the announcement?"
Ms. Weintraub looked serious. "As you know, the aliens are establishing a single embassy for the whole planet, which many countries have been competing to host. The aliens have finally made their decision. They're going to settle here."
"Are we going to Washington to see them?" I asked eagerly.
Ms. Weintraub frowned at me. "Tim, please control yourself. And you misunderstand me. The aliens are not settling in Washington. Everyone was afraid the aliens would choose the United States, and there was some jealousy about that. So to keep it a worldwide mission, the aliens have decided to settle in this country -- but not in the capital."
I tried to keep quiet, but I couldn't. "You don't mean they're going to settle here...as in here?"
I was so excited my voice squeaked on the last word.
"That's exactly what I mean, Tim. Syracuse is going to be host city for the alien embassy. But that's not all."
I grabbed the edge of my desk. What could possibly top this news?
"The alien ambassador, Meenom Ventrah, is bringing his son with him."
I let go of my desk and pushed on my eyeballs to keep them from bugging out of my head.
"Mr. Ventrah -- I guess you'd call him 'Mr.,' though I don't know for sure -- wants his son, Pleskit, to go to a public school. The government tried to talk him out of it, but he is very insistent. He says it is important for our peoples to get to know each other."
"So what public school will this alien kid be going to?" Melissa asked nervously.
Ms. Weintraub smiled. "This one. And not just this school. The announcement I wanted to make is that the world's first alien student is going to be a member of our class."
"Yesssss!" I cried, leaping out of my seat.
"Tim, sit down! This is not going to be easy."
"Why not?" asked Linnsy.
"Well, for one thing, it's going to focus a lot of attention on us. We'll have reporters hounding us to get in here. They'll be contacting your homes, too. Mr. Grand is having meetings with your parents today to discuss the situation. Some of you may be removed from the class."
"What?" I cried.
"Tim, raise your hand before speaking, or I'm going to send you out of the room."
I clamped my hands over my mouth. Getting sent out now would be horrible. (And getting pulled out permanently would probably kill me.)
"Good idea," said Ms. Weintraub, when she saw what I was doing. "Now, removals will be strictly up to your parents. Some of them might not want the media attention. Others might fear that Pleskit will carry dangerous germs."
"Eeeuw!" cried Melissa. "Could that be true?"
I waited for Ms. Weintraub to throw her out, but she didn't. She just said, "Well, if it were true, we'd be as likely to infect Pleskit as he would be to infect us. But the aliens and our own government have both certified that there is no chance of it happening."
Michael Wu raised his hand. "Won't the aliens think it's awfully rude if someone leaves the class?"
Ms. Weintraub shrugged. "I suspect they've studied us enough to know that not everyone will welcome this situation."
That's for sure, I thought, remembering the horrible things I had heard some people saying on the news.
"So when does this kid get here?" asked Jordan -- without raising his hand, I might add.
Ms. Weintraub took a deep breath. She looked around the room, making eye contact with each one of us. Then, in a soft voice, she said, "Our new student will be joining us...tomorrow."
That was when I fell off my chair.
Copyright © 1999 by Bruce Coville
Meet the Master of Silly Sci-fi!
It's been ten years since Bruce Coville first entertained kids with his far-out, funny My Teacher Is An Alienand the idea that intelligent life may have landed on planet Earth in the form of a classroom teacher! Now this prolific and immensely popular author has returned to his alien roots with a new series, and this time, the alien is a student. Jamie Levine of Barnes & Noble.com spoke to Bruce Coville about writing I Was A Sixth Grade Alienas well as the related TV series on the Fox Family Channel. And the warm, witty author lived up to his reputationhe's simply out-of-this-world!
Barnes & Noble.com: Why do you like writing about aliens so much?
Bruce Coville: There are a couple of reasons. The first is that it's what I liked to read about when I was a kid. And one of the things I'm always trying to do is write the book that I wanted to read when I was ten years old. (And until I get it perfect, I'm going to keep on trying!) Well, that's probably what got me started. And when I'd done a little bit of it, I realized that writing about aliens is a really good way to write about human beings. It allows us to see ourselves from the outside. Aliens look at us and say, "Why do you guys do that stuff?" I enjoy having aliens in my books because it's an opportunity for a lot of wacky humor, but also an opportunity, at the same time, to make some comments about the way we as earthlings run the planet.
B&N.com: Do you believe that aliens exist?
BC: Absolutely. I don't necessarily believe that aliens are monitoring us right now and abducting people and doing probes and all that stuff. What I do believethat I have no question aboutis that there is intelligent life on other planets somewhere in the universe. The universe is too big, too diverseit's inconceivable to me that there's not intelligent life out there.
B&N.com: If you were given the opportunity to meet an alien, is there something you'd want to ask it?
BC: There are a million things I'd want to ask! I would want to know if they'd solved the issues of war and peace on their planet, and if so, how? And I'd ask them how they'd gotten their act together enough to get here. Because we're doing something wrong. I mean we went to the moon 30 years ago, and we haven't been back since. It's stunning to me that we took this huge step and then stepped back as if we were afraid of it. Why we're not colonizing Mars right now is beyond me.
B&N.com: What were you like as a sixth grader? Did you ever feel like an "alien" yourself?
BC: I was a weird kid. But, then again, all sixth graders are a bit weird! One of the reasons I thought I Was A Sixth Grade Alien was such a good title for my new series is because I really think every kid at that age does feel like an alienyou're not a little kid, you're not an adult, you just don't fit in. You have your little planet of sixth grade that you're in, but you still feel like an outsideryou feel like an alien. You feel like you're the only person like you in the class.
B&N.com: I Was A Sixth Grade Alien is also a terrific new TV series on the Fox Family Channel. Tell me about that.
BC: There's a long back story to thisand I think it's a unique one. I originally developed this series as a television concept; it was something I was approached to do. I came up with the basic concept: The aliens contact us, but because they're such a small, unimportant, backwater planet, they only send down one ambassador [to Earth], who brings his kid with him and sends his kid to public school. I developed it for television, and it was never produced, so I took the rights back and the project sat in my desk drawer for about six months. Then, a time came when I needed to get things stirred up again: I was finishing up the last of a set of projects, and my editor had been asking me for a series. Of course I'd always vowed I would never do one of these series where the books are supposed to come out one after another. I've done a lot of seriesseven or eightbut they're the type where each book comes out every year or every two years, sometimes every six months, and there are only three or four books in the series. In this case, things have to happen a lot faster, and it's very demanding. And that's of course because I'm writing all the books myself.
So I presented the publisher with the idea and they liked it, and at the same time I was approached by another television producer. So I was simultaneously working on both projectsand the deals happened simultaneouslyfrom the same packet of ideas. Then, by brainstorming with the producers we developed more content, which they used for the series and which I used for the books. At a certain point, we just had to agree to go our separate ways and each do what we were going to do.
B&N.com: So you're not writing any of the scripts for TV?
BC: Not when I have to generate 12 books this year. The TV series is a half-hour sitcom with comedy overtones. With the books, I'm doing adventure with comedy overtones. If you were trying to make a translation, I'd say each book is a feature film while the TV show is more a short storybut the characters are essentially the same. I love the actors they've chosen for the TV series. They're fabulous. And when I'm writing dialogue for the books, I start to hear their voices in my head, and it helps me shape it. It's like songwriters used to do for Broadway years and years ago. They'd write a song for Ethel Merman differently than they'd write a song for Mary Martin. The actors helped shape the songsit gave structure to them. And having these actors' voices in my head helps me give structure to the dialogue I'm writing for the book versions of the characters.
B&N.com: There are going to be 12 books in the series. Can you tell me about your overall plan for them?
BC: There are going to be 12 free-standing stories. The first seven books are each pretty much an adventure, and within that the relationship between the earth boy and alien boy develops. The adventures, themselves, also set up other things that happen throughout the series. There is going to be some organized conclusion to the alien mission, and that will be resolved in the final book. I am also doing something in this series, which I think is unique: In the first six books, in addition to a full novel, there's a serial that runs at the end of the book (Editor's note: This serial tells the story of what happened to Pleskit, the alien boy, on the last planet where he lived before coming to Earth). And since the books come out pretty quickly one after another, you don't have to wait too long for each next installment. So, the books are longer and in them, I take more time to develop the characters, but the really action-packed, cliffhanger stuff happens in the serial installments.
B&N.com: Do you ever get writer's block? Are you ever afraid that you'll run out of ideas?
BC: I'm never afraid of running out of ideas. I have folder an inch-and-a-half thick that's filled with ideas. Ideas are the easy part of the job. Ideas are all around you. It's all about being aware of them. I do get writer's block sometimesbut not for long periods of time, thankfully. And it usually means that I'm afraid, that I'm blocking myself by being afraid. My writer's block comes from one of two things. One is that I haven't done enough of my groundworkI haven't worked out the characters or storyline enough. That's one source of potential short-term writer's block. The other is being afraid that I'm not going to be good enough: My biggest fear is letting down my readers. It was easier to write earlier in my careerof course I'm a better writer nowbut it was easier then because I didn't have the sense I do now of hundreds of thousands of kids waiting for my next bookand expecting certain levels of performance from me. I don't want to let those kids down.
B&N.com: What kind of advice would you give to kids who say they want to be authors?
BC: I have a few pieces of advice. One is read constantly. Read, read, read, read, read! And twowrite, write, write! All kinds of writing but especially keeping a journal. And threenever throw anything away that you've written. I would give my eyeteeth to have a journal from when I was in the sixth grade. Not just for writing kids' books, but just as a sense of understanding yourself and who you are when you're an adult writing. Of course, as an adult writer you develop more technical skills, but as a child, your thoughts are often fresherand kids have such great ideas. Fourth, and most importantif you're serious about writing, never give up. I went to school with people who were better writers than I was who will never be published because they were never as stubborn as I am.
B&N.com: Well, I know all your fans (myself included!) are glad you never gave up, because your books are fabulous. And so are you. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've picked up this one due to curiousity of the title and the cover itself. I never thought I ended up liking this book instead! When the new kid in school happens to be an alien and almost everybody discriminate him, Things get worse when everything seems to go wrong and mean for our alien hero just because he is an alien. or is it? in all of this mess he found a human friend, Tim.As much as I like this book, It's pretty much annoying to know the slow movement of this book! It takes a long time, regardless the funny and the interesting parts of the first 3/4 of the book is, to get to the real adventure to begin. Nevertheless, that was a very absorbing book.
This book was cool to read i get it in a week of onder.
This book was awesome. The art is especially cool too!
I loved the book it was very cool.