Illustrated by Chris Mould.
Published by Oxford University Press, 2019.
Alfie Fleet and his mother are extremely poor. They live in a tiny flat and own very little. For the most part, they exist on a diet of fish head soup. Alfie’s mom’s birthday is approaching. Alfie has got his heart set on buying her a Sole Sensation 6000 Foot Spa. He’s spent the summer holidays on the library computer investing in stocks and shares and has managed to turn the £5 from his savings account into £100. However, the markets have slowed and he’s still £49.99 short. This is why he answers a job advert in the paper offering this exact amount for a day’s work.
Alfie arrives at 4 Wigless Square, the address on the job ad, and is met by the eccentric Professor Bowell-Mouvemont. The address is the headquarters of the Unusual Cartography Club and the professor is the sole remaining member. His remit is to map different worlds across the universe and update The Cosmic Atlas. Alfie secures the job as his assistant and the adventure begins.
The professor’s chosen mode of transport for their intergalactic travel is a rusty old scooter named Betsy. Large stone circles (similar to Stonehenge) serve as portals from one world to the next. Handily, there’s one in the basement at 4 Wigless Square. Their first stop is Outlandish. They’ve not long landed when Alfie leans against one of the stones in the stone circle. It topples and creates a rather unfortunate domino effect; inadvertently Alfie has destroyed the stone circle and closed off their route home.
The aim of their adventure is now twofold: update the Atlas and find another stone circle to take them home. They are joined along the way by a warrior girl called Derek, a knight named Sir Brenda, and Prince Hoodwink, a vain and malevolent elf. They encounter all sorts of unsavoury characters and have to spend the night in equally unpleasant hostelries. The story really picks up pace when they reach the town of Verminium and enlist the help of Sir Brenda’s Valiant Quests. To find their way home they must survive a dense forest where great danger lurks in the darkness, a sinister elf kingdom, and a fierce, fire-breathing dragon with a penchant for stealing gold.
Chris Mould’s black and white illustrations are as marvellous as ever. There are fabulously detailed maps, spectacular settings and weird and wonderful characters bursting with personality.
The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet is a brilliantly funny book. There’s a lightness of tone, the gags come thick and fast and there’s generally quite a lot of silliness. Oh, and it seems that if you chop off a witch’s wart she will, in fact, deflate.
I really enjoyed this intergalactic adventure. I especially liked the inventiveness, the wonderfully imagined worlds and the cast of unusual characters.
Suitable for children aged 8+
Thank you to Oxford University Press for sending me this book to review. I reviewed it as part of The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet blog tour where I interviewed author Martin Howard about the book. Read the Q&A here.