Alien Invasion in my Backyard Review

alien_invasion_in_my_backyardAlien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015. 978-1449457099

Synopsis: My name is Stuart Tennemeier, and I’m the President of the EMU Club (short for Exploration-Mystery-Unbelievable Club). This is my report for our first mission. Did you ever want to start a club with a friend, but you didn’t even know how to find a mystery to solve? Like, how would you even know there was a jewel heist or a haunted shack somewhere in your town? And how could you even begin to investigate it if you did? What if you started a club to solve other kinds of mysteries. Not huge crimes or weird stuff, but everyday mysteries that happen to everyone, like whatever happened to that game controller we lost? There are tons of little mysteries all around us. Sometimes if you look really, really closely at them, you find out some amazing, incredible things. And you just might save the world. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I love a good mystery and thinking about how the ordinary can sometimes be extraordinary.

Why I finished it: This book successfully combines a number of different elements without making the story or the characters seem trite or over-the-top. It has all the hallmarks of a typical mystery novel, but Bolling gives it his own twist. I loved the added notion that the ordinary is often not as mundane as we make it out to be, such as a missing video game remote being used to try and fix an interstellar communication device. And while I don’t know that the reader will find that their missing video game remotes are being used for the same purpose as Stuart’s, it is fun to imagine how these sorts of ‘mysteries’ can turn into something much larger. Stuart’s report writing is a bit biased – then again, he is the self-appointed president of the EMU club – but we can still see the personalities of the characters coming out. Brian’s mild OCD tendencies, Violet’s desire to tag along with whatever her brother does (those of us with younger siblings certainly relate to Stuart’s frustration), and Stuart’s somewhat lofty ambitions are what make us better identify with the characters. It’s the little quirks to which we can relate: having a parent who is completely clueless about computers, having a friend at whose house you would probably never spend the night, having a sibling with whom you don’t always get along but is there for you when it counts, the desire to maintain a sense of dignity and poise in a situation that is completely unbelievable. Bolling’s timing and pacing are well executed, and I really enjoyed the hybrid photos/report format because I feel it gives one a better sense of the author’s vision of the story. Since this is the first in a series, I am sure Bolling has nowhere to go but up when it comes to creating more fantastic adventures for this somewhat unlikely threesome. I am eager to see what extraordinary experiences can be captured next.

Other related materials: Ghostly Thief of Time: An Emu Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; The Quikpick Papers: Poop Fountain! by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang; The Notebook of Doom books by Troy Cummings; The Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast series by Clete Barrett Smith, illustrations by Christian Slade; Nick and Tesla books by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Stinky Cecil in Operation Pond Rescue by Paige Braddock; Aliens for Breakfast by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman; Aliens for Lunch by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman; Aliens for Dinner by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman; The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza by James Kochalka; The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie by James Kochalka

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