I Was a Sixth Grade Alien (My Best Friend Is An Alien in some countries) is a middle-grade science fiction series by Bruce Coville, in which Earth has been contacted by the Interplanetary Trading Federation, which is establishing a single embassy on Earth in Syracuse, New York. Its ambassador, Meenom Ventrah of the planet Hevi-Hevi, is bringing his son Pleskit Meenom with him, and insists the boy be treated like a normal Earth kid. That means enrolling him in the local elementary school as a sixth grade student, and after some initial difficulties, Pleskit gains a new best friend: resident alien aficionado Tim Tompkins, with whom he gets into all kinds of wild adventures.
The series consists of:
- I Was a Sixth Grade Alien (1999)note
- The Attack of the Two-Inch Teacher (1999)note
- I Lost My Grandfather's Brain (1999)note
- Peanut Butter Lover Boy (2000)note
- Zombies of the Science Fair (2000)
- Don't Fry My Veeblax! (2000)note
- Too Many Aliens (2000)
- Snatched From Earth (2000)
- There's an Alien in My Backpack (2000)
- The Revolt of the Miniature Mutants (2001)
- There's an Alien in My Underwear (2001)note
- Farewell to Earth (2001)
- Disaster on Geembol Seven (1999-2000)note
It was adapted into a live action comedy series (a Canadian and UK co-production) in 1999, which lasted for two seasons.
The books were reissued beginning in 2020, with new covers for all twelve and new titles for six of them.
The book series provides examples of:
- Aliens Speaking English: Most, if not all, of the aliens visiting Earth have learned English after years of studying it, and have a speed-learning method to teach it to others. It's not perfect though, as they have a hard time figuring out some words with multiple meanings, and there are times when a phrase (such as "going native") has an extremely negative connotation to Pleskit, whereas humans don't have trouble with it.
- Bizarre Alien Reproduction: As revealed late in book 6, the seven shapeshifting species from Hevi-Hevi have the ability to, if they spend enough time away from others of their species, go through a kind of asexual reproduction in which a body part falls off and then turns into a combination egg and chrysalis that eventually turns into a full member of their species. This explains why Pleskit's Veeblax has acting so oddly throughout the book — it was getting ready to reproduce.
- Book Ends: Most, if not quite all, of the books start and end with a letter from Pleskit to his best Hevi-Hevian friend Maktel Geebrit. The first one plays with this in that it's the second and last chapters that feature Pleskit's letters.
- Brain in a Jar: Pleskit's "Grandfatherly One" died a long time ago, but his brain is preserved in a liquid-filled tank and can communicate with the outside world. Pleskit usually goes to consult with him when he has a problem — this advisory role is the whole reason he's kept around.
- The Bully: Jordan Lynch, who's been harassing Tim since he moved to Tim's town two years before the start of the series.
- Conlang: Pleskit's people have their own language. Coville includes translations for all its words used in the series so far at the end of each book.
- Conspicuously Public Assassination: Disaster on Geembol Seven concludes with an attempt at one of these — Pleskit has learned that the "constructs", a race of organic and machine hybrids who've been forced to live in an underground city on Geembol Seven due to prejudice against them, are in danger of having their city destroyed by a groundquake that would kill them all... and the rulers of Geembol Seven don't care and would in fact be happy to see them killed off, to erase an embarrassing part of their past. Pleskit arranges to expose this information to a massive crowd, only for a construct hunter to try and snipe him; it's thwarted, but at the cost of an ally's life. The citizens of Geembol Seven are not happy though, and end up overthrowing their government (which, in turn, results in Pleskit's Fatherly One being pulled off the planet by his superiors for Pleskit's inadvertently starting a revolution).
- Gasshole: Pleskit's people tend to use gaseous emissions with specific odors, usually to signify certain feelings.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Pleskit and other aliens tend to occasionally pepper their speech with words from their own language, when they don't have or aren't sure of the English translation.
- Mars Wants Chocolate: The aliens visiting Earth want to find a reason to establish friendly relations with us, but we don't have anything they actually particularly want. Until, that is, they discover peanut butter. Not because it's so delicious, but because it supercharges their romantic and sexual drives.
- Multi-Part Episode: Books 7 and 8, which involve a visit to Earth by Pleskit's friend Maktel Geebrit and the arrival of trader Ellico vec Bur (a bipedal alien and his symbiont partner, respectively). While the visiting Maktel is very suspicious of them, resulting in book 7 ending in he, Tim, Linnsy, Pleskit and Pleskit's Veeblax being trapped on Ellico vec Bur's spaceship as it leaves Earth, book 8 reveals that the two are actually good guys working to stop a plot by Pleskit and Tim's old enemy Mikta-makta-mookta and revolves around the group stopping her from carrying out said plot.
- Our Wormholes Are Different: The urpelli, essentially a type of tunnel through space; Pleskit says they're not exactly like the concept behind wormholes, but close enough. There are many, many of them, all connected to a Grand Urpelli, which makes transport and communication through the galaxy far faster and easier. Books 7 and 8 reveal that there's a second, previously undiscovered Grand Urpelli, which opens near Earth; its existence would make the Trader who controls the planet into probably the richest being in the galaxy, which is why some aliens have been trying to manipulate things so Meenom Ventrah gets recalled and one of them can take over as the ambassador to Earth.
- The Prankster: Beebo Frimbat, an imp from another planet who's featured in books 9 and 11.
- Saw "Star Wars" 27 Times: Protagonist Tim Tompkins mentions in the first book that he's been waiting for aliens to contact Earth since the first time he saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and that he's seen it 47 times by that point.
- Serial Novel: Disaster on Gleembol Seven, set pre-series. Each segment is included as a bonus feature in books 1-6, and it explains what happened to Pleskit on the planet he lived on before Earth, told through his letters to his best Hevi-Hevian friend Maktel Geebrit.
- Shrink Ray: The Molecule Compactor, a Hevi-Hevian device that squeezes out the empty space in the atoms that make up a person or thing, greatly reducing their size (humans, for instance, are reduced to a mere two inches). It wears off on its own after a few hours.
- Sleep Learning: The Hevi-Hevians use this to learn new languages, and unlike most examples, it actually works. Before going to sleep, they take a special pill that places the brain in the same chemical state as it is at the time of the "language explosion", as they call it (meaning the state it was in when they were children and able to learn languages more effectively), then put on a helmet which plays the language into their brain as they sleep. About ten nights of this is enough to give them a basic command of the language.
- Square-Cube Law: In book 2, Tim and his teacher have been shrunk to about two inches tall. However, as Pleskit had earlier explained, those affected retain their original weight. As Tim and Ms. Weintraub discover, this means that when Tim briefly jumps straight up and comes crashing back down, he breaks through the bottom of the drawer and out of the desk.
- Stay with the Aliens: In book 8, Linnsy Vanderhof ultimately chooses not to return to Earth after undergoing Mental Fusion with Bur, an alien symbiont, deciding instead to travel the galaxy (much to her parents' distress, though they ultimately accept her decision). This has consequences in later books, as some people are suspicious about why she didn't come back.
- Switching P.O.V.: Chapters in each book alternate between Tim and Pleskit's point of view. Books 6-8 also include chapters told by Linnsy Vanderhof, and 7-8 by Pleskit's friend Maktel Geebrit.
- Unfortunate Names: Pleskit's new protocol officer Kathryn Buttsman, whom Tim nicknames "The Butt".
- Will Not Tell a Lie: Pleskit, as the son of the first alien ambassador to Earth, is told that humans in general hate lying. As a result, he uses Brutal Honesty whenever he interacts with him — which naturally results in some problems. Only when he befriends Tim does he learn that humans lie all the time, and that the false information was planted by a saboteur wanting to engineer diplomatic incidents.
The TV series provides examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: The "Tarbox Moon Warriors" show is a goofy homage to Star Trek, but it's clear that despite sounding extremely silly and having laughably bad acting, writing and props, no actual hostility to Trek is intended, and Tim's love for the series is usually portrayed affectionately.
- Alien Among Us: Pretty much the point of the story, except that everyone knows.
- Excited Show Title!: Almost every episode has an exclamation point at the end of their titles.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: An enemy of Pleskit says that she is planning to covertly teleport his entire class to an alien planet. Pleskit begins to explain how that is impossible as it would require a mirrored ball hanging over the class and everyone would have to be moving in a slow, rhythmic pattern. He stops as he realises that she is responsible for planning the school dance that night.
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: Blur, but given her age...
- Human Alien: Most of the aliens featured could pass off as human given a few tweaks.
- Market-Based Title: Known as My Best Friend is an Alien is some regions.