“Before you start anything, make a list. That’s what my granddad says.” Prez has learned so much from his granddad, but now his granddad can’t take care of Prez anymore and Prez has gone to live in temporary housing. His only goal is to go back to life with the two of them together going off on adventures.
When a strange kid wearing aviator goggles, a kilt, sporran and backpack going by the name of Sputnik rings the doorbell of Prez’s temporary home, his life takes an unexpected turn. For one thing, everyone else sees Sputnik as a dog. When Sputnik speaks, everyone else hears barking while Prez hears English. And Sputnik claims to be from outer space, on a mission to help save the world and protect Prez at the request of an old friend. To do that, the two have to come up with the ultimate list: 10 things on Earth that make it worth saving.
Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce is funny, touching, thought provoking, sad, and hopeful. Boyce excels at presenting young protagonists making their way through difficult life situations with the wisdom of the innocent, and Prez joins the list of his characters that both tug at the heart and make you want to cheer them along the way.
Prez doesn’t speak, which means people often ignore him as they go about making themselves heard. But he does listen exceptionally well, which means he understands people more than they know. As Prez creates the list with Sputnik, he learns how to see the world around him through an alien’s eyes, and he discovers that it’s not necessarily the biggest things that make the most impact on life, but the smallest.
Sputnik’s Guide, like Boyce’s other books, gathers momentum as it goes along, taking the reader on a magical journey that leads to a conclusion that’s a lot like life: conflicted, imperfect, heart-breaking, curious, surprising, full of promise and possibilities, and absolutely worth living. Brilliant.
I checked out a copy of this book from the library and have provided an honest review.