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James, Norton Hill Nobles

Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth

While this book was not particularly advanced, in terms of vocabulary and accessibility, Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth did contain some interesting themes; it was ultimately a moving and interesting book.

The story details the adventures of Prez Mellows, a young boy who is living with his grandfather. Due to his guardian’s age and occasional inability to look after his grandson, Prez is taken in by social services and put in ‘The Children’s Temporary’ - temporary accommodation for children - and his grandfather is put in a nursing home. Whilst in temporary accommodation, Prez stays with a farming family for the summer holidays. During this time, Prez meets Sputnik, a small, bold alien. Everyone only sees Sputnik as a dog.

Sputnik informs Prez that the world is in dire danger – unless a list of ten things that are worth doing or seeing is created, aliens will shrink the Earth. In the face of the impending doom, but with an ever-resourceful alien to aid him, Prez creates the list. In doing so he learns more about himself, his moral compass, and the people around him. Hence the title of the book is ‘Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth’: Prez’s first person account of his experiences.

This book can be viewed from two different perspectives: it is a pleasant, amusing story for children, yet is also a thought provoking read in which those with perhaps more maturity will discover challenging themes. For example, Prez is a selective mute – he chooses not to speak. We may associate this with trauma – the shock of being separated from his grandfather. It may also raise questions about how he is being brought up – not having a permanent home and a mentally stable grandfather may have affected his character. Whilst it is not said outright – as the book is targeted at a younger audience – it is hinted throughout the book that Prez has a form of autism. Failure to recognise and diagnose this properly would may have also have affected Prez’s personality.

Sputnik’s friendship proves to be a counterbalance for Prez, stabilising his emotions as navigates through an uncertain world. Sputnik also contributes to our perspective – being an alien, he sees the world through a different viewpoint. He amuses readers with his slogan of ‘have you read the manual’, before completely transforming an everyday object – for instance using a TV remote on humans - to pause them.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this book greatly and would recommend it to all ages – both those seeking an easy, humorous story, and those who desire engaging topics.

Posted on: 21st June 2017 at 09:26 am

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