Title: See You in the Cosmos (review copy)
Author: Jack Cheng
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Blurb from Goodreads
A funny, luminous, utterly moving novel about a space-obsessed boy, his dog Carl Sagan, and a journey toward family, love, hope, and awe.
11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan-named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977.
From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like.
But his destination keeps changing.
And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover-from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.
This was a very sweet story aimed at the middle grade market.
The main character Alex is an eleven year old boy (but with a responsibility age of 13!) who is passionate about all things space and rocket related. His hero is the astronomer Carl Sagan after whom he names his pet dog.
The inspiration for the format of this book comes from the Voyager Golden Records. These were recordings chosen by Carl Sagan and an expert panel to be representative of life on Earth and sent into space on board the Voyager spacecraft in 1977 as an introduction to human civilisation to any extraterrestrial sapient life forms.
In this book, Alex creates his own recordings using a golden iPod with the intention of sending them into space onboard a homemade rocket and each chapter is a transcript of these recordings.
Alex is a brilliant main character.
He is so full of wise questions and amazing knowledge and yet is still so beautifully innocent and naïve. It is this innocence and naïvety that leads him to take off on the adventure of a lifetime with his trusted canine companion alongside without regard for consequence or safety.
This adventure leads him to among other things an amateur rocket launch; it leads him to discovering more about his deceased father, and brings his quiet home life into the spotlight and reveals just how much this young boy has been dealing with at home with a mentally ill mother.
The cast of characters Alex meets along the way are also incredibly beautifully written with how we really only see them through the eyes of this special eleven year old boy. This is a story that is tinged with bittersweetness but ultimately is a triumph of Alex’s indomitable hope and optimism. He truly is a very special main character who at times can feel wise beyond his years and others, perfectly unmarred by the harshness of life.
I am very sure that I would have loved this book as a 10 year old because of how it views the world and in particular the curious behaviour of adults through the eyes of a wonderful young boy. The adult version of me fell head over heels in love with the canine Carl Sagan and I can 100% guarantee that my younger self would have been equally bonkers!
The book is also filled with a wonderful sense of humour that would endear itself to any child and indeed any adult who is still a child at heart.
A charming story.
*A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Penguin Random House UK: Children’s, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Originally read and reviewed for Goodreads in February 2017