The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away
The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away

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Annotation: Twelve-year-old Simon thinks he was abducted by aliens. But is it real, or just his over-active imagination?
Catalog Number: #170802
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 215 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-328-84160-X Perma-Bound: 0-7804-3060-3
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-328-84160-5 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-3060-0
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2018051971
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Smith (Hoodoo, 2015) continues to be one of the most distinct and impressive voices in middle-grade speculative fiction right now. Twelve-year-old Simon's longtime obsession with aliens comes to a head when his parents take him camping over the summer. After a terrifying encounter with an owl leaves him with memory loss and a small, mysterious wound on his stomach, Simon worries that he's been abducted and implanted with an alien tracking device. Peppered with moments of reflection and insight, Simon's piercing narration strikes a delightfully conspiratorial tone as he confides in, and at times speaks directly to, the reader. Smith plants a seed of dread and suspense early on that grows and grows, right up until the very last page. The unexpected ending simultaneously wraps up the story line, leaves the reader satisfied, and furthers the book's propensity to blur genre lines. This is an unassuming, stand-alone story that sneaks up when least expected, and it will be hard to forget.
Kirkus Reviews
A young boy gets more than he bargained for while researching conspiracy theories about the government and UFOs in Smith's latest.Twelve-year-old, biracial Simon is a quirky kid. He lives on an Air Force base, he reads and writes high fantasy stories, and he believes in aliens. Not just any aliens, but "Grays"—the large-headed, spindly-fingered visitors of Roswell fame. Most of the information that Simon can find is from supposed coverups of the Grays' frighteningly hostile abductions of humans—theories that sound perfectly rational until he says them out loud, especially to his disapproving parents. But theory bleeds into reality when Simon encounters a bright light and a large owl in the woods, leaving him with an odd scar and a jumble of fragmented memories. Simon's parents worry for his mental health as Simon himself spirals in his search for explanations, certain that the Grays are trying to communicate and that their message is not so friendly. A theme of liminality runs through the narrative as Simon's interests, including his own writing, explore the limits of black-or-white human concepts and the gray areas where those binaries break down—gray like invading aliens; both black and white like Simon. A stilted conclusion and unnecessary epilogue propped up by platitudes about special children who can save humanity mar an otherwise terrific alien thrill.A middle-grade X-Files primer, a great ride until it stumbles at the finish line. (Science fiction. 10-13)
School Library Journal
Gr 57 Twelve-year-old Simon has a wild imagination: he loves playing video games and reading fantasy novels and is even writing his own book about fairies and a talking dog. When he isn't occupied with those things, he obsesses over aliens. On a camping trip with his parents, Simon loses consciousness; upon waking, he is convinced he has been abducted. But when he tells his parents, his mother is fretful and his father is derisive. Simon is afraid, but determined to find out if the aliens are real. Despite having moved frequently throughout the years, Simon has led a sheltered life. He has few friends, is nervous about leaving the Air Base where he currently lives, and is bullied at school. Parallels between Simon and the main character of the book he is writing further call into question the reality of Simon's experience, leaving readers to wonder about what really happened on that camping trip until the very end. VERDICT An eerie and layered tale with a main character to which young readers will relate, but with a less than satisfactory ending that may spoil the overall effect for some. Maggie Mason Smith, Clemson University, SC
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
ALA Booklist (11/1/18)
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Horn Book
Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal (11/1/18)
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 5-9
Lexile: HL600L


I first started freaking out over aliens when I read a book of my dad's called Communion. The cover showed an alien with big bug eyes and a little slit for a mouth. The nose was just two tiny pinpricks. Dad said it was all make-believe--​that the author was crazy, that he needed to see a doctor--​but once I started reading, I couldn't stop.
     The aliens I'm talking about are called Grays. They come from a binary star system called Zeta Reticuli. It's about forty light-years from Earth. They've been coming here for ages, all the way back to Egyptian times.
     There are other types of aliens, too. The Reptilians--​who look like lizards. The Nordics--​who are tall and blond and resemble humans. But the ones that scare me the most are the Grays.
     Just saying it freaks me out.
     It's such a simple word. A color. Not black or white. But something in between. Something unknowable. Something that makes me not want to sleep.
     In the book, the Grays come to Earth and take this guy on one of their spaceships. They do a bunch of experiments on him and then let him go. But before they do, they put an implant under his skin so they can track him. Just like we do to animals.
     That's what we are to them.
     Lab rats.
     Have you ever seen those pictures of weird crop circles in cornfields? Or heard about cows being cut open and dissected? The aliens do that, too. No one knows why.
     I'm going to stop now because I'm really freaking myself out.

My dad is in the Air Force, and we live in what's called base housing. All the houses look the same. Everything we need is right here: a commissary, which is what you'd call a grocery store. The BX, which stands for base exchange--​kind of like a small department store. There's a swimming pool, a movie theater, a library, even a McDonald's. And there are rules, too. Lots of them. If you don't cut your grass, someone will come by and tell you to do it. You can only water your lawn at 1800 hours. (That's military time for six o'clock.) You can't play loud music in your backyard. And soldiers in crisp, white uniforms come by without warning and inspect the inside of your house. They want to make sure you're not living like a slob or growing marijuana in your basement. A guy in school named Jerry Finfinger had marijuana in his basement, and his dad was arrested and his family kicked off the base. What would that be like, I wondered, to have to live out there? With them. Civilians.
     I knew there was a world beyond the main gates of the Air Force base, where men with guns stood at attention all day long and checked cars coming in, but I'd never been outside of it, except for family trips. It was huge out there, with crazy highways and giant stores and parking lots. Kids got kidnapped all the time. But here on the base we were safe. Safe from the outside world. And the Grays. The Air Force had weapons that could probably defeat them if they ever attacked.
     One time I asked Dad if he knew anything about aliens, or if any of his pilot friends ever talked about them. He said the only alien he knew was a man named Danny Bones, who once drank thirty-three beers in one night.
     I don't believe him, though. The Air Force is known for keeping secrets. All you have to do is look up Roswell.
     This is what happened:
     A UFO crash-landed in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. The Air Force quickly covered it up, and said it was a hot air balloon. But that was a lie. Before they sealed off the area, several farmers found some wreckage--​shiny pieces of silver, like metal or steel. There was something strange about it, though. You could ball it up in your fist like aluminum foil and then it would just uncrumple back into shape, as smooth as a sheet of paper. And there was writing on it, too. Alien writing. All those pieces are stored away now at Area 51, a top secret military base in the Nevada desert. And you know what else they found?
     Alien bodies.
     One of them was still alive, but really messed up from the crash. They took him to see the president, a man named Harry Truman. The alien didn't speak, but they were able to communicate through reading each other's minds. That's called telepathy. They made a deal: The aliens would share their super-duper advanced technology if the government allowed them to take humans every now and then for their experiments. They were a dying race and needed to find ways to continue their species.
     But the aliens broke their promise.
     They started taking more and more people.
     And there was nothing we could do about it.

Excerpted from The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away by Ronald L. Smith
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

In this delightfully creepy novel from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner Ronald L. Smith, twelve-year-old Simon thinks he was abducted by aliens. But is it real, or just his over-active imagination? Perfect for fans of Mary Downing Hahn and Louis Sachar. Twelve-year-old Simon is obsessed with aliens. The ones who take people and do experiments. When he's too worried about them to sleep, he listens to the owls hoot outside. Owls that have the same eyes as aliens--dark and foreboding. Then something strange happens on a camping trip, and Simon begins to suspect he's been abducted. But is it real, or just the overactive imagination of a kid who loves fantasy and role-playing games and is the target of bullies and his father's scorn? Even readers who don't believe in UFOs will relate to the universal kid feeling of not being taken seriously by adults that deepens this deliciously scary tale.

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