In Marion Carlson’s picture book “Run Duck Hide!” The Martians Are Coming?, a boy and a dog encounter a group of aliens in a field—or do they?
The boy, Nick, and the dog, Benna, are sitting under an elm tree when they see a spaceship descend from the sky. Five Martians in strange spacesuits emerge from the ship, shining their bright light-sticks, until they are scared away by Benna’s barking. Nick, more curious than scared, shouts up at the spaceship for the Martians to come back, but they do not—and Nick suddenly realizes he’s sitting under the tree, being licked by Benna.
The story ends with Nick unsure about whether his encounter with the Martians actually happened or not, but the way it’s presented in the book, there’s little doubt. On the last page, Carlson writes, “Nick and the dog walked, this time for real, to the center of the big field.”
Joshua Allen’s illustrations are simple but effective, building suspense as the spaceship gets closer and finally lands, over the course of several pages. Carlson’s prose is generally effective, but the writing loses steam, and Carlson seems to lose her way, when her sentences run past a dozen words or so, as when she writes: ”Once again he should run and escape this torture to his body but his feet were glued to the spot and the desire to see more and find out everything he could about was [sic] going on held him captive.”
Run Duck Hide! The Martians Are Coming? is a fun tale of the “imaginary or not?” variety, but crisper writing and an ending that truly left readers wondering whether Nick was only dreaming could have made it significantly more appealing.
Also available as an ebook.