I read this short story in elementary school, 15-20 years ago. It was a small book, similar to Apple Paperbacks, but I've combed through lists of all their published works to no avail.

It was written for youth 7-12, and when I read it I think it was age-appropriate. Since it was so long ago, I don't remember many details. I may have read it around '95, but I'm not sure when the book was written. Likely no earlier than the mid-80s, as the book mainly revolves around a boy who has a home computer.

The story involves a young boy talking to someone on his computer. As far as I recall, all communication is done through text. The boy types questions, and receives responses back in kind.

The boy figures out he's talking to an alien that needs his help.

The only significant detail I can remember is that the alien mentions something about how all of Earth's animals would react to the alien's presence, and even the most "docile" of creatures, the earthworm, would be a danger to it. It never explains how it would be a danger to it, which I remember bothering me. (I also believe that this was the first time I read the word "docile".)

Update: I believe the worm explanation was the reason the alien gave for not being able to do stuff himself and needing the boy's help.

I think the boy ended up helping send some sort of signal to the alien's home planet so that they could pick him up? I think he may have involved one of his friends.

  • I'm pretty sure I read this story too, although I don't remember anything about an earthworm. I had thought it might have been a rare science fiction story from Diana Wynne Jones, but nothing seems to check out. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Jan 29 '15 at 21:55
  • "It was written for youth around the age I was when I read it." Okay so how old were you at the time? – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 29 '15 at 23:35
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit I've edited that detail in, but at the time I wrote the question I didn't remember. Thinking about it now, I believe I remember which school library I read it from, which narrowed the timeframe down considerably for me. – user31178 Jan 29 '15 at 23:42
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    I read something similar, in that the boy was at his mothers work using an office computer for his homework when he was contacted by the alien. They eventually meet up, and the alien is intensely interested in human humour, as its a concept his race aren't familiar with. No idea on the title or author, but I read it in the late 1980s. – Moo Feb 25 '15 at 12:05
  • Same story as in this question maybe? – user14111 Aug 11 '15 at 4:36

Your book sounds similar to (but probably isn't) Terry Pratchett's 'Only You Can Save Mankind', where a boy playing a computer game where he defends earth from alien invaders discovers that the aliens he kills in the game are real and he can talk to them.