(C) Ages 8-10, (D) Ages 10-12, (E) Ages 12-15, Book Reviews, Boys, Fantasy, Middle Grades, Science Fiction
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Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Liam, a super tall 12-year-old, goes on a cosmic adventure in this light-hearted British science fiction story that includes subtle emotional weight.

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Walden Pond Press, 2011 (reprint edition). 336 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-12

Recommended For: Middle Grades, ages 8-12, especially as a book for boys and their dads!

Mom, Dad–if you’re listening–you know I said I was going to the South Lakeland Outdoor Activity Center with the school? To be completely honest, I’m not exactly in the Lake District. To be completely honest, I’m more sort of in space….

Liam is an extra tall 12-year-old who is growing facial hair and regularly gets mistaken for a grownup. He loves playing multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft because he can pick any character he wants (his avatar is shorter than average); his parents, however, keep foisting “real world” friendships on him. He clearly loves his parents, but he also metaphorically rolls his eyes at them–typical middle school student in many ways. Because he looks so much older than his 12 years, Liam enters a contest posing as a “dad” and wins a trip with his “daughter” (friend, Florida) to a new theme park/thrill ride. When he and Florida arrive, they find out they’re in China with three other dads and their sons; the object is to test drive a new top secret rocket.

Throughout the book, Liam’s reflections on what he needs to do to be a good dad obviously stem from his relationship with his own dad. He makes some crazy decisions, but he honestly seeks to love and protect the kids in his care while he’s acting as a dad. And his relationship with his own, very ordinary dad comes full circle at the end of the book in a great tribute to good dads. A great, fun read about a very likable kid who goes on an amazing adventure.

Cautions: mild evolutionary worldview (occasional references to “millions of years ago” in the history of Earth)

Overall Rating: 4.5

  • Artistic Rating: 4.5
  • Worldview Rating: 4.5

Some quotations that capture the feel of the narrative and Liam’s “voice”:

“Golf. If you think Monopoly is boring, you should try golf. If you were playing golf inside World of Warcraft, what skills would you need? Running skills? No. Sword skills? No. Cunning? No. Wisdom? You are joking. The object of the ‘game’ is to put a ball in a hole. Tidying-up skills, that’s what you’d need…. When you say ‘hazard’ to normal people they think of ice on the road, or fog, or sudden invasions of Night Elves. Golfers think you mean sand. Or a puddle with a duck in it.”

“…the sun rolled up and peeled a strip of shadow off [the building’s] back, as though it was a huge red banana. And then it tore up all the other shadows like tissue paper and there was everyone unwrapped on the tarmac, like surprises.”

“In zero gravity we really were like a family of novelty balloons.”

“Dadliness was out there among the stars, a force like gravity, and I was part of it.”

“When you look at the moon from Earth, it looks a bit smudgy. I mean, you know the smudges are mountains and so on but really they just look like blotches. But from where I’m sitting, you can see they’re mad, spiky storybook mountains.”


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