Cover image for Smile if you're human
Smile if you're human
Layton, Neal.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, [1998]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 30 cm
An alien child's quest to take a photograph of a "mysterious creature known as a human" has an unexpected result when a search through an Earth zoo brings an encounter with a gorilla.
Reading Level:
AD 200 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 2.0 0.5 34570.

Reading Counts RC K-2 1.9 1 Quiz: 27958 Guided reading level: H.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Oversize
PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



When trying to spot a real-life human, this alien family understands that it's important to know exactly what to look for. On a visit to one of our planet's zoos, they ready their camera and try to follow their not-very-well-informed Aliens' Guide to Earth. Through persistent trial and error (webbed feet? feathers? a striped coat?) these most unusual tourists are able to discover just what makes us humans the "most stupendous" animal of all! Hint: It rhymes with Dial.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 4^-7. An alien boy and his parents visit an Earth zoo, hoping to get a picture of "a most unusual creature known as a human." They first encounter a kangaroo, quickly eliminating it as a potential human with the help of Mom's book Aliens' Guide to Earth. The tiger, penguins, and giraffe they observe are likewise eliminated. This makes for some cute exchanges between the boy and his parents, as when the boy spots the tiger and exclaims, "Look, Dad! Humans are covered with stripes!" A satisfying ending finds the aliens accomplishing their goal--or so they think: the final page shows a photo of a smiling gorilla, which, not surprisingly, has characteristics of a human. Layton's clever writing and zany cartoon illustrations set this extraterrestrial tale apart from the average picture book. --Lauren Peterson

Publisher's Weekly Review

English illustrator Layton makes his U.S. debut with this altogether prepossessing tale of interplanetary tourism. As a spherical orange spaceship comes to rest on a pale-yellow Earth sidewalk, the young alien narrator announces, "I've brought my camera and hope to take a picture of a most unusual creature known as a `human,' " while pressing against the craft's window with evident delight. Like any curious family, the extraterrestrial child, mother and father disembark and begin to explore what turns out to be a walled zoo. Unaware that the humans have dispersed (one image shows two cars speeding away), the aliens proceed to the animals' cages, earnestly consulting the "Aliens' Guide to Earth." The child checks to see if humans tend to bounce ("Mom looked at her book. `This jumpy fellow is a kangaroo. Humans like to walk' "), and inquires about a four-legged, striped thing that readers will know as a tiger. Layton's gestural artwork may at first appear unsophisticated, but his cursory outlines and roughed-in swatches of paint serve to animate the ebullient pictures. The aliens resemble colorful patchwork bugs, with cheerful smiles, skinny legs and two eyeballs that wave high on thin stalks; conventional hats (e.g., a fedora for Dad) levitate in the air above their eyes. Their na‹vet‚ is charming, particularly when they arrive at a gorilla's cage and make a small error; at least Junior gets a snapshot of someone's smile. Young Earthlings will surely giggle at these peaceful, flash-happy tourists. Ages 3-7. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 2-An alien family lands a rocket ship on Earth, in the middle of a zoo. The child, armed with a camera, looks for humans to photograph. He wonders about each animal that they see, continually asking, "Is that a human?" His parents look each one up in their guidebook only to identify it as a kangaroo, tiger, penguin, or giraffe. But when they catch a glimpse of a mysterious creature peeking out of the last house in the zoo, they declare it human, and the alien child snaps a picture. Observant readers will figure out the truth even before the page is turned and delight in knowing more than the protagonists. Layton's amusing stick-figure aliens have bodies splashed with colors in geometric shapes. Their eyes stand on stalks and their hats hang in the air above their heads. The close-up views of the animals, with eyes popping, strutting their charms, are wonderful. The text has repetitive phrases that encourage participation. Pair this humorous tale with Jeanne Willis's Earthlets, as Explained by Professor Xargle (Dutton, 1989) for a look at humans from an unusual point of view.-Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community-Technical College, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.