Children's book written and illustrated by Daniel Manus Pinkwater, first published in 1977. 57 pages. ISBN 0-440-44542-6.
Like all of his books, even grownups can read and enjoy this fantastic little tale.
POSSIBLE SPOILER FOLLOWS
(something probably written for school MANY years ago and found on my harddrive)
Fat Men From Space has a lot to say about potato pancakes. It says that they are delicious. Sargon, ruler of the planet Spiegel agrees: this is why he sent his legions of fat men in plaid suits to earth to gather them. The fat men floated down to earth gently from their flying interstellar hamburgers (Spaceburgers), and gathered not only potato pancakes but every kind of fatty food and junk food imaginable. They do this "Because we are pirates," as fat man Hanam explains, "space pirates." Indeed they are, with plundering as their specialty. Hanam clarifies: "All we do when we invade a planet is walk around and have a snack, and we don't pay for it either." They are relatively harmless. There are some vague plans to enslave the people of earth to make more snacks after they use up all the existing inventories, but nothing comes of it. They leave after a while, in search of a giant potato pancake they spot floating in deep space. "It looks like the biggest potato pancake ever sighted."
William, a boy whose new dental filling begins receiving radio stations, is our window to this. As the story begins he is pleasantly surprised to learn of his new ability, and he uses it to annoy his mother and teacher. One night, though, he begins picking up the communications of the fat men preparing to invade; they detect this, and abduct him. Just as with his reception ability, where he never gets the last laugh against his mom or teacher, he is also unable to do anything about the spacemen's plundering of Earth's candy, potato chip, pizza and hamburger reserves. His main issue of contention with his parents and his teacher is his not being allowed to listen to the radio when he wants to- he really enjoys it, and saw it as harming no one. The radio filling, he thinks, is his vindication, but he is found out and eventually it stops working. It turns out for the better, though. In the end William learns that he doesn't need to radio to enjoy himself. Earth's losing its junk food was also beneficial, as people begin eating healthy.
The moral of this story then is: Figures of power, though often good natured, are arbitrary and act selfishly. However, an individual - or a planetful of individuals - can find strength in their leader's caprice. This is shown not only with the fat spacemen and William's radio troubles, but also in a few lesser episodes. For example, in class, the teacher incorrectly accuses a student, Melvyn, of playing a radio. In fact it is William and his tooth - but Melvyn thrives off the accusation, feigning true outrage at being accused, and using this to charm over his fellow students in a charismatic and deceitful way.