That’s when Dibs pokes his head in between us. ‘I think you’re brave, too.’ He smiles with his big beaver teeth. ‘Way braver than those girls in the movies who are always screaming and carrying on. You’re not screaming and carrying on or nothing and those Martians could zap us with their ray pistols or probe our brains with their mind-control mechanisms at any minute. That says brave to me. No doubt about it.’
(The Truth About Martians by Melissa Savage. P116.)
Milo wishes he had the same courage as his big brother Obie. The brother who died over a year ago. Milo is still grieving. On top of that, he wishes he could help his friend Dibs. Dib’s father is under a dark cloud and he regularly locks Dibs out of the house.
Then a flying saucer crash-lands in the local area.
Milo and his friends investigate the crash and Milo learns that superheroes need more than super strength. They need superhuman hearts.
Milo lives in a small town near Roswell in the 1940s. The Truth About Martians is based on a real-life event which happened in 1947. An army Air Force base announced that a flying saucer had been recovered. The story made major news around the world. Soon after, the US government announced that the saucer had in fact been a weather balloon. Conspiracy theories abounded and it makes prime material for fiction.
This is a story about life beyond our borders. Beyond our known experience. It is also a touching look at grief and living with loss.
What I loved about the story was the friendships. Milo and Dibs have a friendship founded firmly on comic books and their shared sweet-tooth. Their wider social group includes two boys they like-don’t-like, and Gracie. Milo may have a crush on Gracie, but she is determined to do the same things as the boys. The friendship group and child-sized world (do you remember when someone’s house marked the boundaries of your known existence?) felt real and the constant banter between Milo and Dibs reminded me of how intense childhood best-friendships could be.
The story is a great one for breaking gender stereotypes. As well as Gracie’s determination to be an active and adventurous person, Milo has to get over his idea of one type of bravery. These themes are being seen more often as writers seek to help children break any stereotypes about what gender means.
Think ET with added friendship and conspiracy. This really captured how it felt to live at a time when attention was turning to space and it would make a lovely introduction to that era.