Book Summary: Liam is tall and hairy for a 12 year old and is frequently mistaken for an adult, so much so that he plays up being his friend Florida’s dad to buy things. He is also gifted and talented, and precocious with it. He ends up winning a competition to go to a mysterious space camp by pretending he’s a father, and he has to take his “daughter” Florida with him to the space camp. They end up with a group of kids and dads in the camp, with the fathers having their various motives for ensuring their children are successful. For various reasons, the children end up going to space with Liam the only “adult” on the rocket. An error on the journey sends them out into space disconnected from help on Earth, and the kids — who are all very bright in different ways — use their various skills to guide the rocket home. Liam, almost forgetting he is only 12, takes on father role to all of them, all the while realizing how much he misses and appreciates his own dad. The children are able to land safely, but the rocket trip has to be covered up and kept a secret even from his family (who think he’s been at a camp in England). In the end, we hear that a child taikonaut has gone to space (it transpires Liam and the children had been running the test mission for this young girl and it had been paid for by her wealthy mother). The taikonaut goes to the the moon and finds that rocks had been moved into the shape “hi dad”. The whole world is baffled, but Liam knows it was the kids on the rocket who did it for him and for all their dads. It is a science fiction love story to fathers.
APA Reference of Book: Boyce, F.C. (2008). Cosmic. New York: Walden Pond Press.
Impressions: This book was charming and enjoyable from start to end. Boyce has a natural flair for writing children’s dialogue in a believable way (though some of the gifted talented brainy conversations were a slight stretch). At the end of this adventure, I found myself moved by this love story to fathers. Many children’s books focus on bad parents, absent fathers, or parents who don’t understand their children at all, but this — like Roald Dahl’s Danny, The Champion of the World — is truly an appreciation of fatherhood. Liam, in taking on the role of father, comes to understand how his dad has struggled but persevered to find common ground with Liam and stay connected to him as a father. The scientific terminology in the book is of a high-level (it makes the reader believe in Boyce as an expert on space travel) which engages the reader even further. I would definitely recommend this book to children I teach.
Professional Review: Stevenson, D. (2010). Cosmic (review). Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 63(6), 231-232. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved June 28, 2017, from Project MUSE database.
While there’s clearly a science-fiction element to the story (“I’d always wanted to see the world. And now I was—all in one go,” says Liam as he looks back at his home planet), British author Cottrell Boyce, as he did previously in Millions (BCCB 7/04) and Framed (BCCB 10/08), firmly grounds his fanciful concept in absolutely authentic reality. The space-travel prep is detailed and factual, the private rocket believable and attainable; the inclusion of a project assistant who proves to be former Apollo astronaut Alan Bean enhances the verisimilitude. The group’s lurch out of orbit and into possible disaster is nerve-wracking, but the book turns it into a poetic exploration of human possibility as well as a thrilling adventure… A story of human possibility with a lot of adventure, or an adventure with full credit given to human possibility? Either way, it’s a fantastic, funny, and moving novel, for both those dreaming of the stars and those firmly rooted to the ground. After last year’s Apollo 11 celebration, this is a commemoration of a different sort: one that gives full credit to those who lift up as well as those who reach the sky, and that celebrates not only the spirit of exploration but the human connectedness that allows it to flower.
Library Uses: All or parts of this book would be appropriate to read as part of a STEM activity or lesson about space. The scientific vocabulary would really stretch younger readers’ minds. I can foresee using it to inspire STEM activities or to teach context clue vocabulary skills.