A few years ago I fell hard for Millions, Frank Cotrell Boyce’s first book for children. The outlandish situation (two boys feverishly spending large amounts of money), the characterizations (particularly of the two boys and their father), the subtle handling of the big emotional and theological themes (of grief and faith), the laugh-out-loud humorous moments (my favorite being the playground economy), and the remarkable voice of narrator Damian (the younger of the two boys) made it a memorable novel for me as well as for my students when I read it aloud to them. Boyce’s next novel, Framed, did not win me over the same way. Fortunately, he has gone one better with his newest book, Cosmic.*
“I’m not exactly in the Lake District.”
Indeed he is not. He’s not even on Earth. With that small, understated sentence Boyce hooks us up with his eleven-year old narrator, Liam, a “great lad.” Great as in being really tall; tall enough to ride any amusement park ride he wishes, tall enough to drive, tall enough to be repeatedly mistaken as an adult. Say on his first day at a new secondary school as a “gifted and talented” student when he is initially identified as a teacher. Great as in being really, really good at the multiplayer online role-playing game, World of Warcraft. Great as being really smart and really brave. Great as in having a sweet and thoughtful and sensitive way that stands him in good stead when he ends up in a rocket coming back from the moon.
With a bunch of kids.
Who think he is a dad.
Boyce gets Liam’s voice just right. A screenwriter, he knows how to set-up scenes, create engaging dialog, and make a completely improbable situation believable. As he did with Millions, Boyce brings in deep philosophical ideas in a kid-friendly, convincing, and moving way. With this one it is about dads, about what it is to be one, what it is to be an adult. To the book’s readers, Liam is convincingly a kid throughout his story, even as he convinces the adults he encounters that he is an adult. And not just any adult — an adult just like his dad.
A completely lovely book; highly recommended.