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Space adventurers Cosmoe the Earth-Boy, Humphree the Space Pirate, and daredevil Princess Dagger are off to the circus to sell their famous Galactic Hot Dogs. Crostini’s Cosmic Carnival and Wonder Circus has monsters galore—and soon Cosmoe finds himself working as a monster tamer. But there’s a dangerous side to Crostini and his crew that leads to wild fights and chases as Cosmoe faces his darkest fears. Zany pictures, snappy dialogue, and nonstop action will keep readers captivated from beginning to end.
What is courage? What inspires ordinary people to be courageous? What might prompt you to risk your safety for a good cause?
1. Humphree says to Cosmoe, “We all got pasts . . .. You keep your stuff to yourself as long as you like.” Find places in the first sixteen chapters where Cosmoe refers to, but doesn’t explain, his history with circuses. Before you reached the chapter where they visit Earth, what did you think Cosmoe’s past might have been?
2. Describe Crostini and his role in the plot. What are some clues early on that he can’t be trusted? Why does Cosmoe work for Crostini?
3. Crostini’s Cosmic Carnival and Wonder Circus has many aspects to it. Describe the circus including the train, circus acts, and animals.
4. Cosmoe says early in the book, “For your friends, sometimes you do stuff that makes you uncomfy. Sometimes you even face your deepest, darkest fears . . . “ Do you agree? What fears does he face in the book and which of those does he face for his friends?
5. When Cosmoe realizes that the circus menagerie is in danger, he says it’s his “duty” to save them. Why does he feel that way? What does his belief show about his character? Do you think that it’s his duty?
6. Cosmoe fights a number of creatures. What is the Amaruuk like? How about the Skorlax? And the lyanux? Choose one fight and explain how Cosmoe defeats the monster.
7. When fighting the lyanux, Cosmoe says he and his friends are in “full-on Hollywood-blockbuster mode.” What does he mean by that? How do that scene and others resemble a big Hollywood movie?
8. Discuss characteristics of a mad scientist. Where have you encountered that kind of character before in movies, television, books, or video games? How well does Crostini fit the role of a mad scientist?
9. What is the plan that Crostini and the Evil Queen are working on? How do Cosmoe and his friends try to stop them?
10. F.R.E.D. doesn’t appear often but does come in handy in some tight situations. Describe different ways that F.R.E.D. is helpful to Cosmoe and what Cosmoe’s attitude is toward F.R.E.D.
11. Cosmoe and Humphree end up as opponents in a gladiator-type fight. What leads to the encounter? Why is it psychologically hard for Cosmoe? How does the fight get resolved?
12. Cosmoe gets emotional when they arrive on Earth. Why is he sad? How do his friends react to Cosmoe’s feelings and to learning about his past?
13. Cosmoe calls the Wrangler a “villainous villain.” What does the Wrangler do that’s evil? How do Cosmoe and his friends defeat him?
14. Describe some of the special devices, like the jetsuit, that Cosmoe uses in his fights and elsewhere. What devices do the villains use?
15. “SPLOOT!” and “SQUAWK!” appear in pictures early in the book. Make a list of some other words for sounds that appear in the text and pictures throughout the book. Which of the words have you used yourself or seen elsewhere? What do they add to the story?
16. Cosmoe sometimes uses questions in his narration. Find examples and discuss the effect of questions on the reader. Do you find Cosmoe’s voice to be effective as a narrator?
17. Find a double-page spread that is one big picture with just a few or no words. Describe the picture in detail and talk about what it adds to the story. Why do you think the book’s creators chose to include some pictures with so few words?
Next Wild Ride
What will Cosmoe and his friends do next? Imagine what their next adventure will be and make a comic strip to illustrate it. Share your creation in print or online with the rest of the group. Free websites for making comic books include http://www.makebeliefscomix.com and www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/comic.
Awesome Adventure Goals
Princess Dagger has a list of exciting adventures she wants to have before her mother catches up with her. Make your own list of at least ten possible adventures you’d like to have. Print the list, starting with the one you want to do most, and compare your list with everyone else’s adventure goals.
Pick one of the exciting scenes in the story and write a narration for it as if you were a sports announcer, giving a play-by-play description of what happens. Make it as exciting as you can. Perform the play-by-play for the rest of the group.
Your Circus Act
The story mentions different acts in the circus, from animal tamer to clown. Talk about these different roles and which one interests you the most. Come up with a circus name for yourself like Cosmoe the Magnificent. Describe what your act would entail and why you think you’d enjoy it.
What Do You Do Well?
Cosmoe lists four things that he does well including playing video games and whistling. Come up with your own list of what you do well, including small things. Add some things you’d like to learn to do too. Do items on your lists overlap with anyone else’s in the group? What’s the point of doing something well?
The circus has special words associated with it such as wrangler, reubens, calliope, and the midway. Find other examples in the text and define the circus-related words either from your own knowledge, the context in the story, or a dictionary.
Smash Hammer Derby Blast
Cosmoe and Humphree have invented a game called Smash Hammer Derby Blast, for which they record five rules. In pairs or teams, invent your own crazy game with outer-space elements as part of it. Explain the rules to the rest of the group and describe how to win the game.
Guide written by Kathleen Odean, a former school librarian and Chair of the 2002 Newbery Award Committee. She gives professional development workshops on books for young people and is the author of Great Books for Girls and Great Books about Things Kids Love.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Max Brallier is the author of more than twenty books for children and adults, including tie-in books for the popular show Adventure Time and the acclaimed Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? He lives with his wife, Alyse, in New York City, where he spends his time chasing fortune, glory, and the perfect hot dog.