Fourth-grader Zack McGee’s plans for his new school year change drastically when a 4-inch-tall blue alien crashes into his bedroom and asks for help to return to his home world.
First in a series combining scientific facts, projects and alien-invasion stories, this is an agreeable introduction. Zack’s desperate efforts to conceal his new friend and to build a replacement launching system for his space ship provide both suspense and humor. He can’t hide Amp from neighbor and best friend Olivia, but that’s a good thing. She helps him construct a bottle rocket that soars satisfyingly high though not far enough to send Amp back into space. Unlike the rest of his scientific family, Zack has been a less-than-stellar performer in school, more interested in baseball. This provides plenty of opportunity for both Olivia and Amp to explain things to him and to readers along the way. Step-by-step instructions for constructing a rocket using a 2-liter soda bottle, a rubber stopper, duct tape and a bicycle pump are appended. Short chapters and black-and-white comics-style illustrations add reader appeal. A sequel, The Science Unfair (978-0-06-231494-9), will be published simultaneously, and a third, Radio Active, is scheduled for May 2014.
A pleasing combination of fact and fancy, the Alien in My Pocket series will be welcomed by science-minded middle-grade readers. (Science fiction. 7-11)