There's a book I read in the late '90s that I'm trying to remember.

Definitely in it

The scene I remember very vividly is one of the aliens telling the point of view character (a kid, I think) that it would be ruder to call it "he" or "she" than to call it "it".

Probably in it

I think the aliens are very small and shrink the POV character to their size to be able to be on their tiny spaceship, but honestly I'm not certain that's the same book. I think the shrinking may be accidental? And maybe the aliens can't un-shrink him?

Maybe in it?

At the same time I read that book I also read a book that involved someone being taught to use a rocket belt. I don't know if that was the same book though.

  • This is quite a nice overview but can you remember anything else? Can you remember any of the plot/story elements or what happens? Are they friendly aliens visiting, hostile? How do they meet the boy? – TheLethalCarrot Apr 22 at 11:42
  • Well it's not my novel since I just published it this year but I will comment that using that POV was challenging and, in the end, enjoyable to write. – tgrignon Apr 22 at 12:14

Might this be Aliens Ate My Homework (1993) by Bruce Coville...?

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This review contains a good summary of the plot, confirming the interaction between a schoolboy and tiny aliens in a miniature spaceship:

Sixth-grader Rod Albright, better known as Rod the Clod among his classmates, is a target for the two bullies at school and the go-to babysitter for his toddler twin brother and sister at home. One day, while working on a science project for school, a miniature alien spaceship crashes into his window, and Rod is commandeered into helping the alien crew in their search for BKR, an intergalactic criminal infamous for his cruelty – and who just happens to be hiding out in Rod’s neighborhood. Can Rod, who is incapable of lying, keep his alien visitors a secret and help them succeed in their mission while getting his science project done on time?

And having checked a preview of the book, I can confirm that the alien does state that it would prefer to be referred to as "it" rather than "he" or "she":

I turned to Madame Pong, but she just spread out her hands. "I don't think you want to get into a discussion of biology as it is practiced on Tar Gibbons's planet."

"Okay," I said. "Just tell me what pronoun to use when I'm talking about him. Her. Uh, it. I mean ... see what I mean?"

"It will do just fine," said Tar Gibbons.

"What will do just fine?"

"It will," he repeated.

"What will?"

"It. Refer to me as an it."

"That seems pretty rude," I said nervously.

"Not as rude as calling me a he or a she," it said.

Searching the preview also brings up results for a "shrinking ray" and a "rocket belt".

The book was subsequently adapted into a movie. Here's a trailer, introduced by William Shatner:

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