What parents need to know
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.
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?