A wacky, fun and out-of-this world adventure that fans of Frank Cottrell Boyce or Roald Dahl will love. Highly recommended.
Shortlisted for the 2017 CILIP Carnegie Medal
Sputnik Mellows set himself a mission – to discover whether Earth exists. Now he’s found it, he needs to prove it should exist and, to do this, he enlists the help of schoolboy Prez Mellows. Together they need to find ten things that will justify Earth’s existence. If they fail to do this by the end of the summer holidays, Earth will be shrunk by Planetary Clearance as part of the pan-galactic decluttering programme.
As this brief synopsis suggests, this is a wacky out-of-this world adventure. It’s full of mad-cap adventures and weird assertions that, as a reader, we don’t ever question. For example, when Prez looks at Sputnik he sees a creature about the same age and size as himself, dressed in a slightly-too-big jumper, kilt, leather helmet and flying goggles. When anyone else looks at Sputnik they see a dog – although they can’t agree on the breed. Similarly we’re more than happy to accept that Sputnik can read minds, surf gravity waves, transform a digger into a rocket that can travel at the speed of light, and use a TV remote control to pause real life. I particularly enjoyed the moment when he produced a live hand grenade made of reverse dynamite and used it to rebuild Hadrian’s Wall.
You can certainly tell that Frank Cottrell Boyce enjoyed writing this book and I simply loved reading it. Despite the increasingly outlandish concepts, I was totally swept along by the story. In many respects it reminds me of some of Roald Dahl’s classics, particularly Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach.
The language is kept simple to ensure it’s accessible to children and there are some truly wonderful laugh out loud moments. My personal favourite is when Prez asks Sputnik if he is from space and Sputnik replies: Everyone is from space. There’s nowhere else to be from. What do you think this planet is floating around in? Soup?
This is not the sort of book where I think you’re supposed to analyse the characterisation, narrative arch, or setting. So I’m not going to try. This is, however, not to imply that the book doesn’t have depth. Beneath the increasingly mad adventures there is a serious message about the importance of family, having a place to call home, and paying attention to what is important in life.
If you enjoyed this, you’ll also enjoy Frank Cottrell Boyce’s other books. Why not start with his award winning book Millions or my personal favourite Cosmic?
Date: April 2016
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Review first published on The Bookbag