Thomas, 11, and his father, Patrick, live a seemingly ordinary existence in the cozy northern English village of Belthorp. In reality, however, Thomas and Patrick are Tonitheen and Vateelin, alien agents from the planet Ormingat sent to Earth on a benevolent mission to record the doings of this planet's inhabitants. Their five-year stint nearly over, father and son expect to return to their planet the day after Christmas. On their way to recover their golf-ball-size space ship, stowed in Edinburgh, a dramatic traffic accident separates the pair, leaving Thomas stranded (and pretending to be mute) in a hospital. Meanwhile, Patrick--temporarily miniaturized by the shock--must fend for himself. In outline, this plot is as whimsical and imaginative as those of Waugh's earlier books; in execution, however, the story has a muffled feel, lacking the cozy warmth and immediacy that made her Mennyms adventures so vivid. Since so much of the novel takes place in the hospital, as a bedridden Thomas waits for his father to find him, melancholy introspection often takes the place of action ("He watched the Mickey Mouse clock and went listlessly back to his effort at telepathy, though with no real hope that it would work"). Even the shrunken Patrick's journey to Edinburgh--achieved partly via catching rides on the shoes of passers by--is strangely joyless. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Having studied how to conform to the human race, Thomas Derwent and his father, Patrick, appeared to be perfectly normal. Although Thomas told the housekeeper Mrs. Dalrymple and his best friend Mickey that they had arrived in a spaceship the size of a golf ball, neither believed him. After living in the community of Belthorp, England for five years, it was time for them to return to their home planet of Ormingat. While on their way to the spaceship they are involved in an accident. Patrick is missing, and Thomas, in shock, is taken to the hospital. Mrs. Dalrymple wants to take him home but he longs to be reunited with his father. The race is on for them to find each other and return to their planet. Waugh's quiet style allows Thomas' character to unfold at an even pace. The themes of isolation, parent-child bonding, and friendship are explored. She has a marvelous way of combining the ordinary with the fantastic to make it believable. Readers of her first series, about the Mennyms, will not be disappointed. 2000, Delacorte Press, Ages 9 to 12, $15.95. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Gr 4-7-Thomas Derwent and his father have lived in the small English town of Belthorp for the last five years. Now 11, Thomas has a good friend and substitute mother in Stella Dalrymple, the kindly neighbor who helps care for him, and a best friend at school. Then his father announces that it is time to return home-to the planet Ormingat. En route to a spaceship buried in Glasgow, a speeding brewery tanker cuts their journey short. The boy lands in the hospital and his father can't be found. Waugh provides an interesting background for this story, with brief descriptions of the varieties of Ormingat science, the workings of the spaceship, and the aliens' intentions for their continuing study of Earth's inhabitants. However, much of the focus of this novel is on Thomas's relationship with his father and his friends, and how they illuminate basic truths about human interactions. In her books about the "Mennyms" (Greenwillow), a family of sentient and sensitive rag dolls, the author created an absorbing fantasy that explores the many meanings of family, friendship, and even life itself. In the same way, Space Race is a thoughtful examination of friendship, loyalty, and love. Readers will enjoy the exciting plot and fast-moving action, and the sympathetic characters will stay with them long after the book is closed.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Sylvia Waugh, author of
The Mennyms, about those delightful life-size rag dolls that lead almost-human lives, once again has created a world that shifts between the ordinary and extraordinary. The New York Times Book Review
Though anchored by heartfelt feelings of love and loss, this diaphanous tale is unlikely to engage readers the way Waugh's more arrestingly premised "Mennyms" series has. Ever since he and his father Patrick moved to the village of Belthorp, Thomas has been telling his best friend Mickey that he arrived in a spaceship. He's not believed, of course, but it's true. Looking ahead to the future meeting of their two civilizations, the people of Ormingat gave Thomas a human body and sent him to be an English schoolboy for five years, part of a far larger mission to find out what makes Earthlings tick. His only clear memories being Earthly ones, Thomas is understandably upset when his father suddenly announces that it's time to goand barely have they begun their journey to Edinburgh, where the spaceship is concealed, than Patrick mysteriously disappears in a violent traffic accident. Traumatized, Thomas winds up in a hospital: unidentified, unidentifiable, and with an uncertain future. What would have made a fine short story is padded out with extraneous detail and characters, plus a lengthy, pointless side jaunt for Patrick, who survives the accident by reflexively shrinking to ant size, has a few adventures, then shoots up to normal at the first sign of real danger. There is never a glimpse of the aliens' true form, or of the home planet for which Patrick so longs-nor do Thomas's mutinous feelings last long enough to develop into an inner crisis. Aimless, patchy, uninspired work from an author who has done much better. (Fiction. 11-13)