Nose Pickers from Outer Space
by Gordon Korman
Illustrated by Victor Vaccaro
L.A.F. Books, Hyperion, 1999
Nose Pickers from Outer Space is a children's chapter book aimed at 7-10 year olds. It is technically science fiction and technically humor, but I would hesitate to recommend it on the basis of either; it is, basically, a member of the ever-expanding pandering-to-second-graders genre.
This is the story of Devin Hunter, who is obsessed with being cool, and the exchange student who comes to stay with his family, who is an alien who picks his nose. Devin is less than thrilled -- although he becomes maybe a little more accepting once he learns that Stan Mflxnyx (pronounced just how it's spelled) is really and truly from another planet (the planet Pan, making him a Pants), and much more accepting once he learns that Stan is the only thing standing between Earth becoming a prime tourist attraction for the galaxy and being towed outside the orbit of Pluto to provide a better view of Saturn.
Yes, none of this makes any sense. But it's not completely random; the nose picking is actually just Stan interfacing with his nasal computer. So that's okay.
There are a number of hooks that attempt to make the book entertaining; random comments in the margins, random sentences are enlarged, and humorous illustrations throughout. Most having to do with nose-picking. Sadly, none of this really works. The story is, as you might expect, very silly. Unfortunately, it is not very clever, nor even very funny unless you find nose-picking inherently funny. Admittedly, there are a lot of very bad and unnecessary puns, but there's only so much mileage you can get out of Pants puns.
Granted, I am a bit older than the target audience, but I can see the entertainment in Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and other less cultured works of children's literature. Nose Pickers is less entertaining and less well-written. I do not particularly recommend it, although if you find the title amusing you may as well give it a shot.
In fairness, I should mention here that Gordon Korman is a very good author, and his earlier works, primarily written for older kids and being intended for a smarter and more cultured Canadian audience, are very good and very funny. Books such as No Coins Please, Losing Joe's Place, and the entire Bruno and Boots series are, at least in my opinion, very good reads.
The world of children's publishing being what it is, Nose Pickers is not just one book, but an entire series. The second book is Planet of the Nose Pickers, the third and final Invasion of the Nose Pickers; these are all available in the convenient collection The Ultimate Nose Pickers Collection. There are references to a movie in the works, although how likely this is to see production I do not know.
AR Book level: 3.9.