Alexander Hill Key (September 21, 1904 – July 25, 1979) was an American science fiction writer, most of whose books were aimed at a juvenile audience. He became a nationally known illustrator before he became an author. After he began writing novels for young people, he moved his family to the North Carolina mountains, and most of his books include that wild and rugged landscape.
He is known for his portrayals of alien but human-looking people who have tremendously strong psychic/psionic abilities and a close communion with nature, and who can telepathically speak with animals. In The Strange White Doves, he professed his belief that animals are conscious, thinking, feeling, perceiving, independent, and self-aware intelligent beings, and have subtle ways of communicating, perhaps via empathy or telepathy. The protagonists of Key's books are often ostracized, feared, or persecuted because of their astonishing abilities or extraterrestrial origins, and Key uses this as a clear metaphor for racism and other prejudice. In several of his novels (most notably The Case of the Vanishing Boy) Key portrays some sort of communal withdrawal from society by a group of like-minded individuals. Key sometimes depicted government-sponsored social services for children as inefficient or even counterproductive in its efforts: In The Forgotten Door, social services is presented as a clearly undesirable alternative for the protagonist Little Jon, and in Escape to Witch Mountain, Tony and Tia actively flee the system. In both cases, however, it's for a very logical reason: the characters are "not from around here." All they want to do is go home and, happily, a few of us locals have the decency to help them do so (Key's The Forgotten Door predates E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial by over a decade). The plot of Key's The Magic Meadow is even more poignant for any reader who has ever been bedridden in hospital. Its ending in particular is phenomenally optimistic. That was another Alexander Key theme: that good and decent people deserve to escape to a place worthy of them.