I was fortunate enough to get an advance reading copy of this book. On reading the first page of this book I was instantly reminded of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ and the narrator does have a few features that recall Mark Haddon’s protagonist Christopher and his engaging voice. However, this book very quickly progresses and grows into its own unique world.
In the opening we learn that our narrator; 11 year old Alex Petroski of Colorado, The United States of America, Earth, has a mixed home life. He is happy in what could be considered slightly rough surroundings. He describes things such as his home life positively while leaving the reader enough room to draw their own conclusions on what it is really like for him.
His domestic life with his mother being distant and father absent entirely left me already having several children in mind who I would like to recommend this book to. It is a setting many will find familiar and could easily relate to. The book’s form being through podcasts and many of its cultural references are also relatable to most children. There are some, such as vinyl records and references made to ‘Carl Sagan’ which are useful in opening opportunities for children to research and read deeper into areas they may wish to explore for themselves. I personally feel books aimed at this age range should always offer these kinds of possibilities. I would also add that I am the right age to appreciate the nod to ‘Dexter’s Lab’ in the early part of this book and hope children who don’t get that one will seek it out!
Once we start to establish a narrative, it emerges that Alex is obsessed with space, space travel and is utterly convinced there is life on other planets. I do not wish to cover too much of the story in this review as I personally find reviews like that unnecessary, if you want plot; read the book! But what I will say, is that our main character Alex is loveable, believable and has real depth that will appeal to KS2 readers. The book is listed as being suitable for readers aged 10+, but I would say that knowing some of the space obsessed children I have worked with, I can already think of children aged 8 upwards who would, and could enjoy this book.
The publication of this book could not be more timely with the recent NASA discovery of seven Earth like planets in orbit around a star named Trappist-1. I would love to hear Alex’s take on that finding! This lucky coincidence in timing means that the book could also be linked to current news and opens further avenues for children to explore.
I could write for hours on this book, but the bottom line is; it’s an excellent read and really every educator should just buy a copy now. If you work in KS2 your children will love it. This is one of the first YA books I have read this year, and it has set my year off like a rocket. An absolute firecracker of a book.