This story was in one of my old middle school literature textbooks. I starts with a girl who along with the rest of her society is all excited to meet the aliens who have just made contact. The aliens finally land and the girl remarks right at the end that the aliens are similar to her but they only have hair on their heads instead of all over (the aliens are us).

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    i did read it, sorry can't remember the title. pretty sure it was a short story. in the same vain there is one where a worn out soldier recalls the war against the monstrous aliens (us) and one where the last pure human village kills off all mutant to preserve the geneticaly clean long tailed humain race. Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 16:58
  • This isn't it, but Isaac Asimov story "Youth" is very similar in some ways.
    – user77832
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 6:56

1 Answer 1


I believe this is "Zoo" by Edward D. Hoch.

The story first appeared in the June 1958 issue of Fantastic Universe. It can be read here.

The story begins with children and adults, boys and girls, men and women, excited for the aliens to arrive.

The children were always good during the month of August, especially when it began to get near the twenty-third. It was on this day that the great silver spaceship carrying Professor Hugo’s Interplanetary Zoo settled down for its annual six-hour visit to the Chicago area.

Before daybreak the crowds would form, long lines of children and adults both, each one clutching his or her dollar, and waiting with wonderment to see what race of strange creatures the Professor had brought this year.

After everyone has seen the strange horse-spider aliens which look like horses, but run up walls like spiders, Professor Hugo and the aliens leave.

He waved farewell to them, and as the ship rose from the ground the Earth peoples agreed that this had been the very best Zoo yet....

Later, having completed visits to various worlds, the aliens return to their home planet. A she-creature greets her returning mate and offspring. They tell her they enjoyed all the worlds they visited, one in particular.

The little one ran up the wall of the cave. "On the place called Earth it was the best. The creatures there wear garments over their skins, and they walk on two legs.”

"But isn’t it dangerous?” asked the she-creature.

"No,” her mate answered. "There are bars to protect us from them. We remain right in the ship. Next time you must come with us. It is well worth the nineteen commocs it costs.”

And the little one nodded. "It was the very best Zoo ever....”

Other than one easily misremembered specific detail, the alien child at the end mentions clothes instead of hair, this story matches the description.

This is one of Hoch's most reprinted stories. I recognized it right away, but the definitive clue for me is the fact that OP read it in a school textbook. That's how I first discovered the story back in the 1980s.

Here are two pages from the Edward D. Hoch Bibliography which shows the publication history for this particular story. It has been reprinted dozens of times, about half of which are in various school textbooks and educational material.

Edward D. Hoch Bibliography, page 58

Edward D. Hoch Bibliography, page 59

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    This story illustrates how, depending on perspective and point of view, we are just as bizarre to aliens as they are to us. However, another thing struck me about this story which never seems to get mentioned or discussed. The inhabitants of every world pay to see the aliens when they arrive, but the aliens also pay to make the trip. My conclusion is Professor Hugo is quite the con man getting paid twice. I wonder if this subtle detail was intentional on Hoch's part when he first wrote the story or if it's just my own twisted interpretation. Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 15:36

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