Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Today we almost reached the end of this book with a very lovely group of Year 7 students. It's the third time I've read the book now, and I still absolutely love reading it. Frank Cottrell Boyce has a gift for creating hugely sympathetic, hugely real adolescent boy characters; which is not always an easy task! Cosmic tells the story of Liam, an unusually tall Year 7 student, who is Gifted and Talented, but not always very socially aware. Liam would rather look at the GPS on his phone or play World of Warcraft than be out with the lads. However, he does love thrill rides.

Liam's love for technology and thrill rides leads him into a cosmic adventure. But more than being a tale about the moon, stars and extreme thrill-seeking antics, Cosmic is more a tale about love. However, it is in no way patronising or sickly, it's very acerbic in its wit, with lots of physical comedy thrown in too. It is touching, but not sentimentalised. Without giving too much of the story away, there is a line in it ("When we get back, I won't have a Dad any more"), which I always ask a student to read because invariably if I read it, I blub. And, in true Cottrell Boyce form, it's just plonked in the middle of a sentence, like a diamond in a muddy puddle. There's no deep exploration of feelings, just a subtle and honest exploration of what parental love and friendship are all about.

I feel that dads sometimes get a bit of a bad press in literature; especially in children's literature. Not as bad as step-mums, admittedly, but bad enough. I am very lucky to have the best dad, who has never been emotionally unavailable, violent or failed to attend an important school event which he promised he'd be at. I also have a wonderful step-mum, who her never sidelined me in favour of her own children, tried to blacken my mum's memory, or attempted to poison me with an apple, as one might expect dads and step-mums to have done if we believe everything we find in a story.

However, I think that even if a reader has a crap, or absent dad, there is a wonderful message in Cosmic. A good father is important, and has a massive influence on the life and happiness of not only his children, but all of the children whose lives he touches. Those without a father look for models elsewhere, and stories can help to provide a framework for thinking about what fatherhood should ideally be. This is important, in my opinion. Not as important as the fact that the book is a cracking good read, but important nevertheless.

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