Nov 14, 10
Read in November, 2010
Because I had enjoyed the film "Millions", based on a book by Frank Cottrell Boyce, I was interested in reading his latest book for children, "Cosmic". "Cosmic" had been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 2009 (it was published in the UK in 2008 and in the USA in 2010), and won the British Blue Peter award, "Book I Could Not Put Down" (chosen by children from selections given to them by adult judges),for 2010. This was a fun follow-up for me after having recently read Mary Roach's adult nonfiction title, "Packing for Mars". This would be a great offering for upper elementary boys. Although there is a bit of British lingo in it, usually a reader can tell from the context what the American equivalent would be. The title is a play on words. The term 'cosmic' is used as an adjective to describe something delightful, but also references the plot, in which a group of kids is blasted into space. Liam, the book's narrator, is a twelve-year-old who is unusually tall and hairy for his age and so appears to be an adult. In the Gifted and Talented program at his school, he is also quite savvy for a kid. The book is just beyond the realm of plausible, but close enough to be highly entertaining. The author was advised by the real astronaut, Alan Bean, who appears as a character in the book, so some of the preparation for space travel is pretty close to real life (also affirmed by reading Mary Roach's above-mentioned book). A deeper topic explored by the book is the role of a father in a kid's life. Liam poses as his school chum's father in the group chosen for this space voyage. After having observed his own father, he has decided that all fathers stick to five topics of conversation: 1)How we got there (meaning, how the traffic was) 2) What the parking was like 3)What is was like in the old days 4)Something thoughtful which it made you think, and 5)Something to do with last night's soccer (Americans could substitute 'football' for 'soccer'). Liam , in the beginning, attempts to stick to these topics in order to seem genuinely "dadly". He has brought along his father's copy of a book called "Talk to Your Teen", and uses some ideas from that book to deal with the group of kids in his "care". The book has a lot of humor, but also touches on some deeper questions. Some little gems pop up quite unexpectedly while reading: "Truly, grown-upness is wasted on grown-ups" (p.20); commenting on the board game, 'Monopoly', "Monopoly is my life--going round and round the same streets over and over again with not enough money" (p.50); "We're in trouble. He can get us out of it. He's a Dad. That's what he's for" (221). Liam begins the venture believing the rocket ride is an amusement park ride, but discovers bit by bit that this will be a real launch into space. His prowess with video and online gaming , particularly 'World of Warcraft", comes in handy and those references may appeal to young male readers. There are some telling details about 'grown-upness', as when Liam's parents decide that, rather than spend the money on a vacation, it may be better to redecorate the kitchen because that will last a lot longer. Hmmm....Boyce is a screenwriter with a PhD in English from Oxford.This is his third book for children. I wonder if this book will be made into a movie?