By Soksambath Pichny,
If you were to tell the aliens from outer space about Earth, what would you tell them? I know an 11-year-old who can answer this question!
See You in the Cosmos, written by Jack Cheng, is a story about a curious 11-year-old boy, Alex Petroski. Alex loves space and his family. He also loves his hero, the legendary astronomer Carl Sagan (so much that Alex named his dog Carl Sagan). His hero had helped send Voyager 1 and 2 into space along with The Golden Record. Carl had put many sounds on Earth in disks, from dolphins singing to a newborn baby laughing and people saying hello in 55 languages. And when these two rockets were sent into deep space around 40 years ago, he hoped that those who got the Golden Record would get a sense of Earth.
Alex wants to do the same thing! He wants to launch his own rocket, the Voyager 3, with his golden iPod which has recordings of the sounds on Earth and what happened in his life. He has the same intention, which is to let other extraterrestrials know what life on Earth is like.
To fulfill his dream of launching Voyager 3 into space, Alex embarks on a journey where he encounters many unfortunate and unexpected obstacles that put his bravery to test. He also meets other incredible and friendly people (Steve, Zed and Terra) who then becomes his friends and family. They help him and show him family love and warmth, something that Alex has almost never felt before and always wished he had.
I resonate with Alex in the sense that he and I are both space-obsessed and we both love Carl Sagan. But the courage and commitment he has for everything left me in awe. He’s only 11 years old and already building his own rocket, and he’s very responsible too. Since his father passed away, his mom has been suffering from mental illness. His 24-year-old brother, Ronnie, lives in a different state. He occasionally sends money home and rarely visits. Therefore, Alex had to take care of the household, including cooking for his mom. He goes grocery shopping on his own and also has a job to at least buy food for Carl Sagan (the dog).
What’s really interesting is that instead of describing everything Alex goes through, the author put it in the form of audio recordings that Alex has on his golden iPod. And apart from offering a heart-wrenching and emotional roller coaster ride, this book has also taught me other valuable life lessons including:
Failures. Through many trials and errors, Alex is often on the brink of giving up. But the people he meets help and remind him not to. He then tries to learn from his failures and tells himself to always try harder and harder. To redouble the efforts if he fails once and quadruple the efforts if he fails again.
This is a very important message because most of us are like Alex. When we worked very hard on something and still failed, we often lose hope and just give up. We think that even if it’s the second or third time, we would still fail. We already fear failure before we even try again. So, after reading the book, I feel like I mustn’t fear failures. Because Alex taught me that we can learn from our failures and once we try hard enough, we can succeed.
Courage. Going alone far from home is always risky, especially when you’re 11 years old. And for Alex, his journey is indeed risky, as there are many obstacles and problems that require him to be brave. After many unfortunate events, he keeps asking himself how he could be brave when he’s sad and scared?
As for myself, I can totally relate to this because I feel most courageous only when I’m happy. So, when I’m not happy, I feel so down, like I have no courage at all. And from Alex, I learned that bravery is most needed when you’re not happy, and when you’re scared. Like one of Alex’s friends, Zed, said, “If you’re only brave when you’re happy then it’s not bravery.”
Truth. Throughout the book, Alex mentions many Carl Sagan’s quotes and I love them very much. One of my favorites is “Knowledge is better than ignorance, and it’s better to find out and embrace the truth even if that truth might not feel good.” This speech has left a huge impact on Alex’s life and his journey, as he always asks questions and seeks for the truth. The adults around him don’t like this very much because they feel like since Alex is a child, some hurtful truth has to be kept from him, just to protect him.
But, Alex still goes out and seeks for truth, and that’s why he gets to uncover many secrets that have been kept away from him for the last 11 years. This is also a valuable lesson for me because sometimes I also choose ignorance because I feel like it could make me happier. Some truth might not be pleasant, so I prefer not hearing it. But, Alex taught me to always go for truth because what you find can be something that you’ve always been looking for.
I have learnt so much from this book, from appreciating friends and family to being brave and embracing failures. I totally recommend this book because it’s not only for young kids but also for everyone who wishes to learn these same things. And Alex has shown many good parts of Earth and its people that if the aliens out there happen to find and listen to his recordings, they would think that we are good and loving creatures who never give up on the things and people who matter to us.
Thank you for reading and see you in the upcoming blogs!
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.