Aliens Are Coming!

Common Sense Media says

Fun, educational retelling of the War of the Worlds hoax.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Young readers get a lesson on history, culture, mass media, and literature.

Positive messages

Kids will see that they cannot always believe everything that they hear.

Violence & scariness

Aliens shoot lasers in creepy red light, but the cartoon style lightens the mood.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this picture book describes the very real drama following the 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast. The content is handled very well, but the story is likely to prompt conversations about public panic, trusting news reports, and hoaxes. The book provides extensive resources for kids interested in learning more.

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

It’s 1938, and Americans are glued to their radios listening to what appears to be an invasion by Martians! It’s a prank, of course, the now infamous radio hoax engineered by Orson Welles based on H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. This historical picture book tells the story of how it happened.

Is it any good?


On the surface, this rich book is a fun tale of a famous prank. But Meghan McCarthy’s slobbering aliens serve up a wealth of material for curious kids to explore. She forthrightly sets up the tale by introducing 1930s radios and letting kids know this is a true story of a pretend story, and then lets the fun begin. Just like listeners in the 1930s, kids may fall for the prank all over again. At the back of the book, she offers extensive background on the radio play, H.G. Wells’ perspective, and a bibliography; there’s even more at the Web site for the book, released as a hardcover in 2006. The style of the text offers another worthy challenge to kids, presenting excerpts in the format of a play.

McCarthy’s illustrations pay homage to pulp fiction of the ‘30s and ‘40s, from the gooey letters on the cover to the ads in the back pages (“Electric-Tuning Radio! Even a baby can tune it!”). History is rarely this much fun.

Cartoons evocative of classic sci-fi are a perfect mix of goofy and spooky.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about truth and fiction, particularly with mass media. Why do you think people believed such an outlandish tale? Would you have believed it? How do you tell the difference between what’s real and what’s pretend on TV or in movies?

  • Were the 1938 broadcasters acting responsibly? Why or why not? What about the broadcasters that repeated the stunt, as described in the Author’s Note?

  • Do you think this prank could be repeated with modern mass media, specifically television or the Internet? How would it be different from the radio version in the 1930s?

Book details

Author:Meghan McCarthy
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Dragonfly Books
Publication date:August 11, 2009
Number of pages:40
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 8
Read aloud:5
Read alone:8

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byEezreviews October 21, 2009

grade school kids will enjoy this story

I have read this book as a tool to have kids discuss what life was like before television and why we shouldn't always trust what we see or hear. Kids enjoy this book because of the great illustrations and the fact that it is about a real event.


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