Today is publication day* for The Boy Who Cried Alien, by Marilyn Singer. Illumastrated by me. Published by Hyperion. I wrote a lot about this book a while back, and I’ll write about it some more soon. Go now to Indiebound or a favorite book store and get one for you, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, and maybe your kids.
The Boy Who Cried Alien is a book unlike any other book I’ve not only had the chance to illustrate, but unlike any book I’ve read before. It takes the old Boy Who Cried Wolf tale and tells it a little differently. In this one, Larry the Liar is our protagonist, and one day he sees a tooth-shaped alien spaceship crash-land into a lake near the town where he lives. Larry, as his name would imply, has a reputation for telling tall tales, so when he runs into town to announce what he’s seen, no one believes him. (Well some do, but they’re loony-toons.) So as Larry tries to figure out a way to get the townsfolk to believe him, the two aliens, brothers named Dreab and Carlig, sing songs about their problems, which include the ship having crashed, being out of gas, and getting in trouble by their dad back home. Now, here’s where things get weird. Dreab and Carlig don’t sing in regular old English. No, Marilyn Singer devised a language for them all her own, based on rearranging certain letters of the words. For instance, instead of saying “Rocket Kaput, no more gas,” they sing “Tapuk Tocker, on eorm, sag.” Do you see the pattern here? Luckily, Marilyn also saw fit to include a translation key in the book so the reader can understand what the aliens are saying, and about halfway through Larry is given a translator helmet so that he can understand what the aliens are saying. Here are a bunch of images of the book.
One of my favorite things about the book was a last minute bit of inspiration by my editor, Rotem Moscovich, at Hyperion. On the case cover, which is the inside cover, under the dust cover, we re-did the title and author/illustrator credits to read in the alien-language. I’d forgotten about this when I got my hot-off-the-presses copy in the mail yesterday, and when I opened it I just cracked up.
Some books get written, get illustrated, get published, and the whole things seems like well-oiled machinery. And then there are books like The Boy Who Cried Alien. I’m not sure exactly when Marilyn Singer wrote the manuscript, but I know I first saw the it in July of 2007. Before that, at various times, illustrators as famous and talented as Dan Santat and Adam Rex were attached to it, and three different editors helped sculpt it into the work it is now. I often think of how relieved Marilyn must be to know that it is, finally, a real book and will be out in just a couple of months. I’ll post more about this book as we get closer to publication date, including a bunch of sketches and outtakes. Ytas Dunet!