Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review - My Teacher Is an Alien by Bruce Coville

Short review: There is a new teacher in school who hates Susan Simmons, and things only get worse when she finds out he is an alien.

Mr. Smith hates Sue
Wait! He's a green alien
Peter takes trip

Full review: My Teacher Is an Alien is the first in a four book series, which is fortunate because by itself, it doesn't stand up very well at all. Unfortunately, I was so unexcited after reading this volume had I not read the later books in the series first, after reading this one I might not have decided to read the remainder of the series.

Susan Simmons, the main character, is a fairly popular sixth grade girl, a good student, and a talented piccolo player. She has been looking forward to the spring semester of school because her teacher Ms. Schwartz always has the class prepare a play, and she wants to be an actress. She is horrified to learn that Ms. Schwartz is being replaced by a new teacher named Mr. Smith, and Mr. Smith has no intention of letting the students put on a play or do anything else that is fun.

While attempting to retrieve a note from Mr. Smith's house, Susan discovers the terrible truth about her new substitute teacher: he is an alien disguised as a human. She decides the only person she can confide in is the smart, bookish science fiction fan in her class: Peter Thompson (in one of Coville's typical asides, Peter is seen in one scene reading A Princess of Mars) who is usually bullied by the mean Duncan Dougal. Peter at first thinks she is playing a joke, but they break into Mr. Smith's house again and find Ms. Schwartz imprisoned in a force field where they learn that Mr. Smith (aka Broxholm) intends to take some students from their class away with him for study: the best, the worst, and three "average" students.

The news spreads through the class, and oddly, the kids end up believing it. Even Duncan begins to help Susan and Peter as they try to foil Broxholm's plans. Except that Peter seems to decide to fall on his sword for everyone and works hard to prove he is the best student to ensure he is selected. Everything culminates in a musical finale (it turns out that Broxholm is incapacitated by Earth music) and Broxholm is forced to unmask and show his true alien nature until Peter gives Broxholm and escape route and leaves with him on his spaceship.

And then the story ends. The book has no explanation for why Broxholm needs to abduct some Earth children. There is a bit of wish fulfillment in Peter's character - he decides to leave with Broxholm to fulfill his dream of being in space, a dream likely shared with a lot of kids who will be drawn to reading this book. But without any indication of Broxholm's motivations or intentions, the book seems completely inadequate. The book starts off a decent science fiction series aimed at young readers, but on its own merits it simply falls flat.

Subsequent book in the series: My Teacher Fried My Brains

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  1. The only thing I remember is that one of my kids loved this series. My Teacher Fried My Brains, especially!

  2. @Julia Rachel Barrett: It is a pretty good series. My review of My Teacher Fried My Brains is up now.