Author: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Genre: Middle grade science fiction
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from publicist
First line: Mom, Dad – if you’re listening – you know I said I was going to the South Lakeland Outdoor Activity Center with the school?
Liam Digby is a twelve-year-old boy in a thirty-year-old man’s body. No, he hasn’t got a growth disorder or undergone some magical switching spell – he’s simply large. Very large. His height might not be enough to make people think he’s an adult, but the peach fuzz starting to grow on his face doesn’t help. There are times when being mistaken for an adult can be fun – like when he gets this close to taking a Porsche out on a test drive, or when the principal at his new school mistakes him for the new teacher – but mostly, it’s a pain. People expect him to act like an adult, but he’s still just a kid.
When Liam hears of a father/child contest to win a trip to the newest and greatest amusement park in the world, he decides to use his height to his advantage. He talks his friend Florida into posing as his daughter and they head off for the thrill ride of a lifetime – a ride that turns out to be the first rocket to space with a crew made up of children and one adult chaperone. Only, Liam is the chaperone, and he’s only twelve. When something goes wrong, Liam finds himself the responsible adult on a rocket ship adrift in space.
The kids and I have spent our read-aloud time for the past couple of weeks with Liam, Florida, and the other kids on the Cosmic thrill ride, and it was time very well spent. Boyce knows how to write the kind of book that boys and girls alike find engrossing. Cosmic has a lot of humor, plenty of heart, and a massive adventure that kept us reading, often turning page after page long after our allotted read-aloud time was over.
The idea of a few parents and kids being selected for the experience of a lifetime had a bit of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory about it, with the parents rather than the kids being the annoying ones. There is Monsieur Martinet, who pushes his son Max to succeed at any cost. There is Eddie Xanadu, who thinks that money can buy anything, and has raised Hassan to believe the same thing. And then there are Samsons One and Two, who value logic and intellectual achievement above people. All of these people, along with twelve-year-old “dad” Liam and his celebrity-obsessed “daughter” Florida, are thrown together for astronaut training, with hysterical results.
Liam may not be a real dad, but in some ways understands what being a dad is more than the actual fathers do. His experiences at the training center and on the rocket give him a new appreciation of his own father, and what it means to be dadly. When I read the last sentence of Cosmic aloud, Noah gave a sigh – a sigh I know well, because it’s the same sound I make when I finish a truly satisfying story. The kids were very excited to hear that Mr. Boyce has other books that we can read together very soon.