Read On!

Mrs. Farquharson’s musings about books for children and young adults



October 30, 1938

orsonThe United States was battling its way through the Great Depression. Adolph Hitler had risen to power in Germany, and his army was advancing throughout Europe. Many American families gathered around the radios in their homes for entertainment and news. Because of the world events, listeners became accustomed to their radio entertainment being interrupted by news reports. Orson Welles used this model of breaking into a regularly scheduled show with news. He decided to use some ideas from H.G. Wells 1898 book, War of the Worlds. In that story, alien vessels landed in London and terrorized that city and moved throughout the world.

Orson Welles took that idea and made a radio play based on it for the CBS Mercury Theatre on the Air. In his script, aliens first landed in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. Very few radio listeners heard the announcement at 8:00pm that it was a dramatic presentation. Instead, thousands of people panicked and believed that the United States was being invaded.

AliensMeghan McCarthy’s picture book, Aliens Are Coming: The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast (Knopf, 2006) is an interesting way to share this event. The children are sure that this hoax couldn’t be perpetrated today because of our technology.



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