Review Blog

Oct 20 2008

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

cover image

Macmillan 2008
(Age 9+) Highly recommended. Liam is desperate to win a trip to a theme park in China which offers a ride in The Rocket - the biggest thrill ride in history. The only problem is that the winners have to be dads accompanied by their children and Liam is only twelve years old. On the plus side he is taller than average and has an embryo beard. He is also in the gifted and talented group at school. These, he feels, are the qualities needed to pass himself off as a dad. Against all odds Liam is a competition winner and sets off to China with his friend Florida, who reluctantly agrees to play the part of his daughter.

This is a wonderful story, whimsical, unusual, thought provoking and funny. Cottrell Boyce confronts some topical issues - the nature of fame and celebrity, the problem with parents who are either completely absent or who push their children too far, and the underhand behaviour of adults who manipulate children to fulfil their own obsessions.

Four winning dads and children arrive in China to discover that The Rocket is much more than just a theme park ride. It is ironic that Liam as the 'dad' realises he will be missing out on the adventure of a lifetime as it is only the children who will venture into space; the dads have to remain on earth and fill in all the boring forms! Eventually Dinah Drax, the brains behind The Rocket, decides to offer an ultimate prize for one of the dads - the opportunity to accompany the children on their space flight.

Liam wins the prize, but his skills as a dad are sorely tested as drama and danger threaten the space flight, and he faces up to the possibility that they may not make it home. Liam's attempts to behave in a 'dadly' way are superbly portrayed. At what point do you admit you are scared? How do you make four frightened and argumentative children do as you say when you are just a kid yourself? You may be gifted and talented, but there are times when you still need your dad.  Cottrell Boyce has such a direct approach that young readers will empathise with Liam's dilemmas.

Liam has always felt too big. He has been picked on by teachers because 'a big lad like you should know better,' and the other kids call him names. It takes a trip to the far side of the moon to put his size into perspective and make him feel small again.

This is a superb book. It would be an excellent story to read aloud in upper primary and lower secondary, and should generate all kinds of discussion and comment. The ending left me with a smile on my face and a lump in my throat. I'm hoping that Cosmic will make a well deserved appearance on next year's Carnegie shortlist.

Claire Larson.

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