Astrid, The Au-Pair From Outer Space

Smarties Awards 1999 Silver Prize: 6–8 age group

When Harry Henderson’s mum announces that she wants to employ an au pair, he is none too pleased. However, when he meets Astrid he realises very quickly that there is something very special about her – he just can’t quite pinpoint what it is. Her endless questions about Harry and his baby brother, her strange manner and her peculiar inquisitiveness about the simplest of things make him wonder exactly what she is up to. But when Astrid tells her young charge that she is an alien from a planet 500 light-years away, and that her special, moving suitcase doubles up as a spaceship, Harry realises that, just like Mary Poppins with her special carpetbag, she might go away again all too soon…

Reviews

“A wry and witty look at our world through the eyes of an alien student…Tim Archbold’s pictures add to the fun. A book to share with your babysitter!” (Junior Education)

“Emily Smith writes sensitively about coping with life.” (School Librarian)

“When Harry Henderson’s mum announces that she wants to employ an au pair, he is none too pleased. However, when he meets Astrid he realises very quickly that there is something very special about her – he just can’t quite pinpoint what it is. Her endless questions about Harry and his baby brother, her strange manner and her peculiar inquisitiveness about the simplest of things make him wonder exactly what she is up to. But when Astrid tells her young charge that she is an alien from a planet 500 light-years away, and that her special, moving suitcase doubles up as a spaceship, Harry realises that, just like Mary Poppins with her special carpetbag, she might go away again all too soon…

Emily Smith’s gently funny novel is beautifully observed and is written with a tender humour that allows all the characters to behave naturally both within their home environment and with each other. It also captures the wide-eyed innocence of children, and their willingness to accept the extraordinary with a curiosity that is at once endearing and awe-inspiring, making mere adults feel foolish for ever believing that things are as straightforward as they seem.

But, ultimately, Astrid, the Au Pair from Outer Space is a story of one family’s life, briefly touched by the presence of a very special au pair, and is a clearly written, uncomplicated book for children who are just beginning to gain confidence in their reading abilities and who are looking for a strong story line to keep them hooked as their self-assurance grows. (Ages 6-8 years) –Susan Harrison”