See You in the Cosmos sums up my sentiments the best: "Alex Petroski has a big mind, big dreams, and a big heart. His story is full of the real kind of magic - friends well-met, surprising journeys, and heartbreak and hope. This is a beautiful book." I concur enthusiastically! I was swept away so thoroughly that I lost track of time and forgot to pick my son up from football practice. My heart was tugged and I pondered anew the gift of relationships.
Eleven-year-old Alex Petroski has one goal on his mind. He wants to communicate with whatever other life forms are out there. He intends to accomplish this feat by launching a golden i-pod into space on a rocket. The i-pod contains 52 separate recordings filled with the sounds he has collected to represent life on earth and the accompanying narrations of his own daily life. Alex even has the perfect occasion in mind - a rocket-launching festival, where he can meet his on-line friends from Rocketforum.org. He's prepared enough meals to care for his widowed, emotionally-troubled mother in his absence and has purchased a train ticket, but the train officials insist he must be accompanied by a grown-up in order to travel. Thankfully, an older boy steps in and claims to be his brother (Alex does have an older brother, but he lives in Los Angeles and works as a sports agent). Once Alex and his dog are safely on the train bound for the festival, he meets other rocket enthusiasts and his true journey really begins, a journey of self-discovery, full of new information, obstacles, and long-held secrets. Alex must reach deep within to find the courage to face the answers to his questions about his role in his family and his place in the universe.
I can just imagine the intensely captivated response youngsters would give to this book as a classroom read-aloud. I remember the enthusiasm of the third graders in Ms. McKee's classroom, whenever she would announce that it was time for more of Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux. Filled with such intense emotional truth, readers could not help but be similarly enthralled with See You in the Cosmos. Alex's innocence and curiosity shine through as he navigates a difficult world and attempts to leave his mark.
Author Jack Cheng has struck gold with his first book for young readers. It was interesting to note, in his acknowledgments, that he started out his journey to publication by seeking funds for his first novel through Kickstarter (for more on his journey to publication, you can go here to listen to a number of podcasts describing the process). I, too, am grateful for the individuals who backed this talented young writer and the agent who discovered his Kickstarter campaign. The world needs more books like this, books that not only affirm life, but - like a rocket - sweep you up and gently drop you down in wonder at the privilege of human existence and the power of human love.