Life, but not as we know it

26th May 2000 at 01:00
Stories about aliens from outer space often provide a means to say something revealing about human behaviour.

In Space Race (Bodley Head pound;10.99, above) Sylvia Waugh, creator of the Mennyms series, gives us a compelling drama about the nature of love and the dilemma of a "boy" caught between two cultures as two aliens who have been living as humans on Earth attempt to return to their own planet.

Thomas Derwent, a sober and clever child, has been living in Belthorp, a sleepy rural enclave in the north of England, for five years. His schoolfriend Mickey Trent is less clever, but fiercely loyal to his sensitive, unusual mate.

Thomas had no mother but is cared for by his neighbour Stella Dalrymple, who becomes a loving parent figure.

His cosy world begins to fall apart, however, when his father breaks the news that their task of recording earthly life has come to an end and that they must return to their own planet of Ormingat.

The past beckons and Thoas feels torn in two by his love for both worlds. His predicament - like that of many children who have roots in two different cultures - is highlighted when an accident tests his loyalty to his father and his past life to the full.

This a powerful, deeply resonant novel, which takes the reader on a heart-rending odyssey that holds them in its grip to the very last page.

Jeremy Strong's zany wit and his ability to make comic heroes out of life's losers and eccentrics has earned him unassailable popularity with young readers.

He has honed the art of writing comic novels almost to perfection. And his latest one, I'm Telling You They're Aliens! (Puffin pound;3.99) is bound to be another hit.

Robert Wolfgang Amadeus Smith is a natural born worrier (he carries a mirror on a stick so he can see what nasties might lurk around the next corner) who becomes convinced that aliens have moved in across the road. Strong's pace and comic timing are formidable.

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