Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth

Research informs us that visualisation is one of the comprehension strategies used by good readers. Encouraging children to become enthusiastic readers means providing them with text that is imaginative, exciting and descriptive. Cottrell Boyce provides just such a text in this mad-cap story. The scenarios are beyond belief, and yet so skillfuly portrayed that they are entirely plausible. And the mind-images stay, long after the story is finished. I had worried when I saw that this book was illustrated. Sometimes one’s own imaginings of characters and events can be quite different from an illustrator’s interpretation, but Lenton’s black and white illustrations are gentle, well-observed and unobtrusive, adding just enough to complement the story.

Prez is a ‘Temporary’, put in care when his granddad was moved to a home. His summer is being spent with a family in the countryside. When Prez answers the doorbell one day, a strangely dressed character presents himself. The family sees a yappy dog, but Prez sees a boy and, more importantly, Prez and Sputnik (who turns out to be an alien) can converse. Much hilarity and adventure ensue as Prez has to provide Sputnik with ten reasons why Earth should be saved from being shrunk to the size of a golfball.

Prez’s world is shrinking, the life he knew changing as his granddad becomes more and more forgetful. With Sputnik, Prez learns to come to terms with what has happened and to prioritise what is important and precious in his life. This stand-alone story comes to a happy conclusion; a lovely, funny, and satisfying read.