Two twelve-year-olds from Waterloo, U.K. (near Liverpool) tell their parents they are going to the Lake District for a school camp, when in fact they are going to the moon. Kids these days! It’s only the latest prank pulled by young Liam, who has made a study of ways to get in trouble by being tall for his age and stubbly-chinned. When adults mistake him for one of them because of his height and mature looks, it’s as if he can’t help himself. It starts at an amusement park, with a thrill ride other kids his age are too short to try. Then there’s his first day in high school, when the headmistress mistakes him for the new teacher. By the time his father catches him trying to test-drive a Porsche, you would think Liam’s fever for mischief has run its course. But you would be wrong. This thrill ride goes all the way to the moon.
How does a twelve-year-old, even a tall and whiskery twelve-year-old, get into the space program? First, by persuading a girl named Florida Digby to pretend that he’s her father. Then it’s just a matter of winning a space-age version of Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket, becoming one of four father-child pairs to be selected for the first passengers on the end-all of thrill rides. Dr. Drax, a Chinese cell-phone and video-game tycoon, flies the lucky families to a secret site in the Gobi Desert, where a rocket is about to take children into space for the first time in earth’s history. Astronauts (or taikonauts, as the Chinese call them) need to start young, Dr. Drax says, if they are going to reach the stars.
Imagine Liam’s disappointment when he realizes the he will have to stay on the ground while Florida and three other kids blast off into outer space. But then comes the idea of including adult supervision in the flight plans. Now all he has to do is prove that he’s the best Dad for the job. Even though, you know, he’s really a kid.
Skipping over a whole series of outrageous and hilarious adventures, we finally find Liam chaperoning four other kids his age in the adventure of a lifetime. It would be great if everything went right. But of course, it all goes wrong. Cosmically wrong. “Completely Doomed” wrong. And that’s when a big little boy who just wants his daddy must man up and become the world’s greatest Dad. For as somebody at NASA famously said, “Failure is not an option.”
After reading Millions and Framed, one may rely on Carnegie Medal winner Frank Cottrell Boyce to tell an exciting story, rich in thought-provoking ideas, tinged with heartwarming feelings, and sparkling with fun. In this third novel, “a book about the magic of parents,” he does not disappoint. Although primarily a TV and film script writer, he has carved a niche for himself in juvenile fiction. His subsequent YA titles include Desirable, The Unforgotten Coat, and three recent sequels to the Ian Fleming classic Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.