Barker’s debut children’s book offers an imaginative take on alleged real-life UFO sightings in Manitoba, Canada.
The author, inspired by reports of a mysterious red light in the Canadian sky in 1975, tells the story of an extraterrestrial encounter from the alien’s point of view. The curious creature, named “Charlie Red Star” by the Canadians, is attracted to the colorful planet Earth. He appears to be a hybrid between an aircraft and an alien—a UFO with big cartoon eyes peeking out the window—and he’s as curious about the humans as they are about him. As he gathers a following of curious, telescope-wielding humans, he begins to gain celebrity status, and although he considers earthlings to be simple-minded creatures, he indulges their curiosity with brief appearances on the planet. Throughout the book, Barker’s illustrations creatively alternate between Charlie’s bird’s-eye view and the humans’ ground-level perspective. As he switches the layout from page to page, it creates a dynamic flow. He also keeps the format consistently clean and airy throughout, making it easy for emerging readers’ eyes to travel across the pages; pastel drawings on black backgrounds, for example, create a simple but expressive outer space scene. The book’s muted colors and handwriting typeface give it an understated, sketchlike style. In some parts, the author changes the color and weight of particular words to emphasize points; for instance, often-used words, such as “Charlie” and “Earth,” are consistently printed in one color. The story’s lengthy paragraphs will make it most suitable for children making the transition from picture books to chapter books. It ends sweetly, although the author could have given Charlie’s adventures a deeper meaning; young readers may also be curious about the events after the alien’s visit. Barker answers some questions in an afterword about what inspired the story, and the open ending leaves room for a potential sequel.
A pleasant, enigmatic extraterrestrial story that emerging readers will likely enjoy.