In 1776, the year that Americans asserted their independence from Great Britain, a spacecraft from a tiny planet lands in the state of New York. Pixel, the sole astronaut in the spacecraft, is only one inch tall. His unlikely friendship with a struggling American family leads to daring, warm hearted adventures. His spacecraft and high-tech tools are more than a match for pirates, British warships and evil noblemen. When a second spacecraft arrives Pixel is inspired and challenged by the youngest astronaut, Tamra, a high spirited doctor.
"Pixel is a likeable little guy with a big heart. The whimsical tone of the story is most likely to appeal to middle grade and young adult readers who are sure to find Pixel's adventures entertaining." ( ForeWord Clarion Reviews.)
"A refreshingly straightforward and unique reflection on human relationships." The novel's "simple approach to sci-fi is provocative and even touching." (Kirkus Indie - A review service from Kirkus Reviews)
" an uncommon mix of historical fiction and science fiction." (BlueInk Reviews)
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Arthur Hughes
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Arthur Hughes
All right reserved.
As the spacecraft orbited closer to Earth, Pixel was amazed at the vast quantity of water that covered the planet. Of course he had made many orbits of his own planet, to test the spacecraft, and he loved the beauty of Larth. But the size and beauty of Earth was truly awesome.
During each orbit cameras on the spacecraft recorded details of Earth's surface. On-board computers created a 3d global image of Earth that was continuously updated during each orbit. After sixty days of orbiting Pixel had a good understanding of Earth's geography. As the orbits got closer and closer to Earth he could recognize many large cities; there were intelligent creatures on Earth. What would they be like? Would he be able to communicate with them? How intelligent were they? Would they be peaceful?
Pixel decided to land the spacecraft on a continent that seemed to be much less developed than others. It was a continent that had cities and towns clustered close to an enormous sea. Inland from the coastal cities was a vast forest that appeared to be uninhabited. But should he land on water or ground? The space craft was designed for either landing. He would have liked to discuss this problem with Mission Control, but his reports now took over three years to reach Larth. In the very early weeks of the journey he had been able to talk directly to his Dad at Mission Control but now he had to make all decisions on his own. He decided that water would be safer and guided the spacecraft to a large lake, far from the towns on the sea coast.
The tiny spacecraft was engulfed by huge waves as soon as it splashed into the lake. Pixel was no longer in control. Flotation devices, like huge tires, were automatically deployed so that the spacecraft could float safely on the waves. This gave Pixel time to actuate the helicopter style rotors and fly the spacecraft to the nearest shore.
The trees were enormous. He flew the spacecraft to the tops of the highest trees and looked, with wonder and fear, at an unending sea of green.
Pixel wanted to find a location where he could explore outside the spacecraft without encountering the intelligent creatures who lived on the planet. He circled a very wide area of the forest to ensure that there were no towns or settlements close to the area he planned to explore. He encountered huge birds, almost as large as the spacecraft, circling the forests. They were so intent on their search for game that it seemed to Pixel that they did not notice the spacecraft. They were certainly not the creatures who created the towns on the coast. But they were massive compared to the birds on Larth.
He found a wide valley of towering trees that was remote from any settlement of intelligent creatures. He landed the spacecraft on a high cliff overlooking the valley.
His on-board testing of the atmosphere had confirmed that he could breathe the air of the planet. He had a gravity control belt that would enable him to fly, or hover, using controls attached to his wrist. The equipment had been tested on Larth, but would it work on Earth? Pixel stood in the controlled exit area of the spacecraft, and opened the hatch. He could breathe. The air had a fine pine smell, and was fresh and delightful! He stepped from the exit ramp, activated the gravity controls, and soared above the trees. He felt free and exhilarated as he glided, and turned, trying to imitate the huge birds, but lacking their grace. Still, he could fly.
Pixel slept very soundly on his first night on Earth. He was in a deep sleep when he heard the spacecraft's alarm system signaling danger. As he leapt from his bed he could feel a violent shaking of the spacecraft. He glanced at the TV monitor and saw that a huge bird was trying to nudge the spacecraft off the side of the cliff! He quickly started the solar powered engine and the vibrations of the spacecraft frightened the bird into flight.
In moments the spacecraft was also in the air and Pixel realized that in future he would have to be very careful in choosing where to park. He flew the spacecraft eastward towards the towns on the seacoast. He hovered high above a large coastal city. Too high to see creatures on the ground but it was clear that the buildings were not unlike buildings on Larth. It was also clear that these creatures did not have flying machines because he had not seen any in the skies as he circled the town. He was afraid to fly lower until he learned more about the intelligent creatures who lived in these towns. It would be safer if he explored the remote farms, inland from the coastal cities, where he would encounter fewer creatures. Pixel flew the spacecraft westward from the sea until he reached an isolated farm, on the edge of the vast forest.
He landed the spacecraft at the opening of a large cave near the secluded farm. Wearing his anti-gravity suit he hovered to the back of the cavern and, with the aid of a powerful searchlight, he determined that there were no Earth creatures in the cavern. Using his hand held solar power pack Pixel moved several large rocks on the cavern floor to create a fairly level area to park the spacecraft. He then activated the warning system so that the spacecraft would take flight if its motion detectors sensed a large life form approaching. Satisfied that the spacecraft was secure, Pixel flew out of the cavern and headed for the settlements.
He was soon hovering high over an isolated cabin. As he drifted lower he could see earth creatures in the cultivated field outside the cabin. He decided to approach them by flying through the trees in the forest. The trees were so high and wide that it was very easy to fly through the gaps between them, until he was very close to the cabin. When he flew into the open field surrounding the cabin, he was in sight of the Earth creatures.
They were giants! Giants in size, but in looks exactly like the people of Larth!
Pixel was too afraid to get any closer. He flew to the highest tree close to the cabin, landed on a branch, and hid within a cluster of leaves. He could observe the earthlings without being seen. He was not alone in the trees. There were large birds on the branches, not the size of the ones on the cliff, but certainly larger than Pixel. The birds seemed to be oblivious to Pixel's presence in the trees. They ignored him as they flew from branch to branch.
There were three giants working in the field. They had no machines. The largest earthling, (Pixel assumed it was the mother) was digging with a shovel in a vegetable garden. A smaller earthling, a boy, was cutting down small trees with an axe, near the edge of the forest. A girl, the smallest earthling, was just standing by her mother, talking excitedly. Pixel was sure that they could not see him, because he was so small. To get a better look he glided to the roof of the cabin. The cabin was made of logs, but the joints were quite crude, making it easy to climb through a space between logs to look inside.
It was very dark. There were no windows in the cabin; the only light came from the doorway. It was very primitive compared to the sleek homes on Larth. Pixel looked down from inside the roof of the cabin to a bunk bed covered with blankets. There was a fireplace in one corner of the room, with dying embers from a wood fire. The only furniture in the room was a wooden table, four rustic chairs, and several wooden chests. The family was poor.
Pixel hovered gently to the bunk bed, and landed on a ladder that led to the ground floor. He was startled when the youngest earthling burst into the cabin. He ducked into the folds of the blanket, and watched as the earthling opened one of the chests. She had a basket of eggs, and she carefully placed each egg in the wooden chest. Just as quickly as she appeared she was gone.
Pixel was very nervous. He would have to be much more vigilant in future. He hovered back to the top of the cabin, just over the door, and found another space to crawl through. He now had a good view of a shed where the smallest earthling was feeding chickens. She was collecting more eggs for the chest in the cabin. Since all Larthans are vegetarians Pixel did not realize that the eggs being collected were actually food for the earthlings. Animals are not kept in captivity on Larth so Pixel found it strange that the non-flying birds were imprisoned in a cage. There was much to learn. But he was very concerned that he might be detected by the giants. He decided to return to the spaceship to send a complete report to Mission Control. No one on Larth had imagined that the planet would be a land of giants!
The next morning Pixel flew directly to the cabin. He brought with him a video recorder that would save digital images that could be transmitted from the spacecraft back to Larth.
It was another beautiful spring day. All three giants were outside the cabin so Pixel found a perch in the roof overlooking the farm. He began to video the youngest giant in the chicken run. She was feeding the chickens that were clucking noisily as they clustered around her. She collected eggs from the chicken coops, and then she played with the baby chicks. These would be delightful images for Mission Control. Larth had a system of interconnected computers that was similar to our internet. Pixel could imagine the pleasure of all Larthans when they saw, on their home monitors, his videos of the giants.
He videoed the mother as she worked her vegetable garden, and when she came into the cabin to rekindle the fire and prepare a soup for lunch. He videoed the family having soup at their solitary table. Their happy chatter was also recorded, but of course the words had no meaning for Pixel.
That night, back at the spacecraft, he considered how he might learn the language of the giants. He knew that experts on Larth would be able to decipher the language if he sent them enough recordings. But he also realized that he would have to wait for many years before Mission Control would provide him with help. In the mean time he knew that providing Mission Control with daily recordings would be very important. To get more recordings he decided that he should spend a night in the cabin.
When Pixel returned the next evening the mother was busy preparing supper on a wood burning fire. From a niche in the roof, directly over the kitchen table, he started his recordings.
"We shall be going to town tomorrow," the mother said. "Sally, please prepare your eggs for the trip. Make sure there are enough feathers in the bag so that no eggs are broken this time."
"I will mother," said Sally. She opened one of the chests, and Pixel saw that it was filled with eggs, in a bed of feathers.
"Can I help you, mother?" asked Adam.
"Yes, Adam, you should bring in some more wood for the fire."
Pixel continued his recording through supper, until candles were lit and the mother started knitting. "Time to practice writing, Sally. And Adam, please help your sister."
"Yes, mother." said Adam. "Sally I want you to write the words—'please help me', with a capital P."
Sally picked up a flat black slate and wrote the words—'Pleas help me.'
"That's fine Sally," said Adam. "But the word 'please' needs another 'e' at the end.
With a small cloth Sally erased the word—'pleas' and wrote—'please' instead. She continued practicing on her slate for over an hour, with much help from Adam. The light from the candles was so dim that Pixel climbed down to the bunk bed to get a better image of the writing tablet.
"Time for bed, Sally. And say your prayers."
"Can we sing first, Mom?" And before her mother could answer, Sally was singing joyously, joined immediately by her brother and mother.
"Off to bed now, darling, and don't forget your prayers."
Pixel was startled to see Sally bounding up the ladder. He tried to run to the nearest wall, but tripped in the blanket, just as Sally climbed onto the bed. He was almost crushed when Sally kneeled to say her prayers. But as she closed her eyes and whispered a few words Pixel was able to crawl out of the blanket and climb the wall of the cabin. He found a niche in the dark roof and resumed his video recording. The mother and son were quiet while Sally went to sleep.
Pixel felt a deep longing for his own family as he watched the giants, peaceful in candlelight. He returned to the spaceship, and while the videos were beingtransmitted to MissionControl, he wished he could talk directly with his Dad. He would tell him of his loneliness, and of the warmth and love that he saw in his family of giants.
Pixel could not find the family when he returned the next morning; they were not in the cabin or in the fields. He circled the settlements close to the cabin, but they could not be found. Finally he flew towards a small collection of buildings that seemed to be the centre of the community; it was several hours walking distance from the cabin. He found the family walking down a dirt track towards the general store. Sally was in front, with two woven, egg filled baskets draped over her shoulders. Adam and his mother also had baskets of eggs.
When they entered the store Pixel flew through a window on the second floor into a large store room. From the staircase he could see the mother talking to the shopkeeper.
"Good day, Mary," said the shopkeeper. "I see that Sally has collected lots of eggs."
"Yes, Mr. Brown," said the mother. "Sally loves working with the chickens. She is a great help to me. I would like some sugar and flour today."
Sally was looking at herself in a large mirror near the front of the store. They had no mirrors in their cabin, and Sally was entranced with her image. Adam was looking at books. The store was also the local library and Adam was looking for Robinson Crusoe, a novel by Daniel Defoe.
"I found Robinson Crusoe, mother. Can I really have it?" asked Adam.
"I promised you, son. But remember you will have to read it aloud to Sally. Bring it to Mr. Brown. He needs to record it in his lending note book. And Sally, it's time for us to go."
On the way home the family stopped at the blacksmith's yard to look at the horses.
"Will we ever get a horse, Mom?" Adam asked. "It would really help us on the farm."
"You know we need to clear a lot more land, Adam, before we think about horses. In any event I would like a cow first. We will just have to work a little harder," his mother replied, as she smiled, and hugged his shoulders. "You will have a horse, soon enough."
Pixel watched the family walk down the main street, and then into a wide track that led through fields of corn. Pixel knew that the family would take several hours to walk to the cabin so he flew ahead to set up the night's video recording. Pixel was concerned that Mission Control might not be able to decipher the images from Sally's slate. Inside the roof of the cabin, directly above the table, Pixel built a crude platform for his video camera. He got the idea from birds he saw building nests in trees close to the cabin. He collected twigs from the forest, cut them to size, and by the time the family arrived, his crude platform was ready.
After supper, when Adam started reading to Sally, Pixel lay face down on the platform, and carefully focused the video camera on the pages of Robinson Crusoe. With the flickering candle, and Adam's boisterous reading habits, it was not easy for Pixel to get a clear picture of each page, but it was the best he could do.
When Sally went to bed, and Adam read silently, a weary Pixel returned to the spacecraft. He was very satisfied with himself. He had a video of the giants' written language, and an audio of the words being read. It might take time but he was sure that the linguists on Larth would one day be able to decipher the earthlings' language. But he was still not satisfied with the video images.
The next day he waited in his nest in the roof until the family went to work in the fields. They were clearing new ground so that they could plant more corn and wheat.
When he was quite sure that the family was a safe distance away from the cabin Pixel flew to the kitchen table and landed beside Robinson Crusoe. He walked on the table to the front of the book, reached up to hold the cover of the book with one hand, and, controlling the anti-gravity switch with his other hand, gently pushed the cover of the book over, so that the front page of the book was open. He then flew directly over the front page, and, in hover mode, videoed the page. After he videoed each page he would fly quickly to the doorway to be sure that the giants were not nearby.
Excerpted from PIXEL by Arthur Hughes Copyright © 2012 by Arthur Hughes. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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