The easiest way to describe The Cosmic Atlas Of Alfie Fleet is that it is has echoes of Hitchhikers but for MG audience with a dash of Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum and a soupçon of the adventures to different lands or kingdoms in Discworld with a focus on the utterly odd and joy of nonsense.
The book was inspired by the concept of a travel guide to bonkers alternative worlds and comes to life in a sort of Stargate with Stonehenge and the Snuggly Duckling from Tangled franchising across the universe.
Our protagonist Alfie Fleet, swept into adventure so he can buy his mum a birthday present, is a thoughtful and resourceful boy; even if he is quite ordinary looking and prone to the clumsy calamitous actions and thinking of a young pre-teen boy making him a highly relatable character.
Throughout the adventure he records travel notes, recommendations and reviews in his notebook in a sort of Lonely Planet meets TripAdvisor fashion.
On his adventures with a corset and long johns wearing Professor he meets a local who calls herself Derek thirsting for his blood believing him aflame prophet of her god, a female Knight Sir Brenda who leaves her six children at home with the Prince to go adventuring and talks like Thor in his first film. Oh and a vain but self-aware Legolas-like Elf who tries to Hoodwink but ends swept up into adventure and thoughts of a modelling career.
Derek is the most awesome and hilarious character, her vulnerability behind a hard crust of dirt, fish guts, stiffened furs and bravado is such a wonderful mix- I can’t wait to see where she goes next.
The plot is self contained which gives satisfaction and also reduces pressure on children who are reluctant about series but the premise AND outcome sets itself up for so many more potential adventures, of which there is another in the works according to the author.
The book is outstanding for encouraging creative and imaginative writing especially embracing the silly with children and for exploring forms of persuasive writing. It’s also good for looking at persuasion and propaganda in how we can turn a review of a bad situation into positive by the word choices. I would have certainly used this book with my KS3 English class when discussing such writing forms and styles had it been written then!!
Overall, I wasn’t sure at first but this Hitchikers meets Discworld Travel review book with adventure, silliness and lots of bum and fart jokes has won me round. I look forward to laughing through more of these adventures with Alfie and his pals.
The Cosmic Atlas Of Alfie Fleet by Martin Howard and illustrated by Chris Mould is published by OUP and available online and from bookstores.