Welcome to Day 29 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring Frank Cottrell Boyce and his book, Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth!
Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth
By Frank Cottrell Boyce
June 20, 2017
Walden Pond Press
Source: ARC from pub for review
Award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce returns with another one-of-a-kind story of heart, humor, and finding one’s place in the universe.
Prez knows that the best way to keep track of things is to make a list. That's important when you have a grandfather who is constantly forgetting. And it's even more important when your grandfather can't care for you anymore and you have to go live with a foster family out in the country.
Prez is still learning to fit in at his new home when he answers the door to meet Sputnik—a kid who is more than a little strange. First, he can hear what Prez is thinking. Second, he looks like a dog to everyone except Prez. Third, he can manipulate the laws of space and time. Sputnik, it turns out is an alien, and he's got a mission that requires Prez's help: the Earth has been marked for destruction, and the only way they can stop it is to come up with ten reasons why the planet should be saved.
Thus begins one of the most fun and eventful summers of Prez's life, as he and Sputnik set out on a journey to compile the most important list Prez has ever made—and discover just what makes our world so remarkable.
Prez is great at making lists. He makes lists and post-it reminders all the time for his grandfather, who is becoming more forgetful everyday. But when Prez’s grandfather is taken away and Prez is placed in a temporary foster family for the summer, he has no idea just how handy is list making skill will be. One night, during his stay at the foster family, Prez answers the door to find a boy wearing goggles and a kilt. A boy who says his name is Sputnik. A boy who, to everyone else, looks like a regular, normal, but very cute dog. Sputnik can communicate with Prez telepathically and informs the boy that he is an alien from far away and that Earth is scheduled for destruction...unless he and Prez can come up with a list of ten reasons why Earth is special and should be saved.
Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth is a quirky, earnest, and heartfelt middle-grade about family, home, and love. At turns heartbreaking and uplifting, poignant and humorous, I found the story unforgettable and sweetly charming.
Young readers will fall in love with quiet, thoughtful Prez and boisterous, full of life Sputnik, and their endearing and genuine connection. The two companions set out on some kooky and wild adventures together- including a jailbreak; flying; saving toddlers from real lightsabers; foiling a robbery attempt; and more - and readers will love how often those adventures turn into tickle-your-funny-bone-misadventures. The farm Prez is visiting for the summer, the ocean-side, and Prez’s quaint Scottish town all make for fun, cozy settings.
With a vulnerable, relatable, ardent voice, Boyce crafts a story that sets out to explore what family and home really mean, and does so honestly and beautifully. Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth gives readers engaging characters to be amused by, adventures and misadventures to be excited by, and a heartwarming, one-of-a-kind story to carry with them for always.
Q1. What three words best describe your book, Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth?
I can tell you three words that I HOPE describe it - funny funny and funny!
You could also try Canine Caledonian and Cosmic
It’s the story of Prez - a quiet boy - who meets a small noisy alien called Sputnik. The twist is that to everyone except Prez, Sputnik looks like a dog.
Q2. Grab a copy of Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth and answer the following:
The ending because it just appeared from nowhere. A good ending should surprise the reader but this one surprised the writer!
I love the scene where Sputnik “repairs” the little girl (Annabel)’s toy light sabre so that it now actually works:
Annabel swung around to take a bow. Her best friend saw the blade of light coming towards her and ducked just in time to stop decapitation. But not in time to save her thick blonde pony-tail, which fell at her feet like a dead gerbil that was slightly on fire.
This is a real place. I put it in the book because it’s so astonishing. It looks like a cathedral but it’s actually a cow shed. Jessie - the girl in the book - describes it as "Cow Hogwarts”. It’s on the beach near Kirkcudbright (a town in Scotland which is spelled Kirk-cud-bright but which is pronounced Ker-Coo-Bree).
Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:
Prez and Sputnik are visiting Hadrian’s Wall (a Roman Wall). Sputnik has just given a lady who works there something that looks like a pineapple, which she throws for him to fetch. This is the quote
‘Fetch! Go on, boy. Fetch!’
‘FETCH?!’ said Sputnik. ‘Is she NUTS? That’s a live hand grenade.’
- When you say live hand grenade...
‘When I say live hand grenade . . .’
- What did you give her a hand grenade for?!
‘We can discuss this later. For now get your goggles on .’
Q3. Who are your favorite middle-grade hero and heroine? What is your favorite middle-grade book?
My favourite middle grade Hero would undoubtedly be Snufkin - the wandering, lonely explorer from the Moomin books. Heroine would probably be - after all these year - Anne of Green Gables for her invulnerable imagination. And for being the star of the best drunk scene in all literature.
Q4. Why do you think middle-grade lit is so important?
Simple. The books I read in later life made me laugh, made me cry, made me think. But the books I read in Middle Grade made … me.
Q5. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
Could it be made to look like the strangely beautiful satellite Sputnik 1. You could use sugar work. Sputnik was the first man made object to escape from Earth’s gravity and float free in space. It orbits our planet. Its name means “companion”. Now there are hundreds of satellites but in the past it was just Earth and Sputnik.
Frank Cottrell Boyce is a British screenwriter, novelist and occasional actor.
In addition to original scripts, Cottrell Boyce has also adapted novels for the screen and written children's fiction, winning the 2004 Carnegie Medal for his debut, Millions, based on his own screenplay for the film of the same name.
His novel Framed was shortlisted for the Whitbread Book of the Year as well as the Carnegie Medal.
He adapted the novel into a screenplay for a 2009 BBC television film. His 2009 novel Cosmic has also been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
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