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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Growing up is tough at the best of times, but when your parents split up and your best friend dumps you for some bully, life really can’t get much worse. Or can it? In Tommy and the Order of Cosmic Champions by Anthony J. Rapino and Anthony D. Grate, we learn that Tommy had a long summer ahead of him after graduating from elementary school. He’s looking forward to hanging out with his best friend, Evan, playing with his comic book action figures, and seeing a few good movies. This dream shatters with his sudden estrangement from Evan, the breakup within his family, and the birthday party where he faces unimaginable embarrassment. He doesn’t give up on his passion for comic book action figures and he even enters a nationwide contest to create a new comic book character. Things don’t turn out quite the way he’d hoped. With his world crumbling around him, he’s running out of hope for a brighter future and there’s only one way to fix the problem: through the imaginative battles of his action figures. What follows is a mixture of fantasy and reality as Tommy’s two worlds collide.
Anthony J. Rapino and Anthony D. Grate’s middle-grade novel, Tommy and the Order of Cosmic Champions, is a compassionate and powerful tale of a young boy coming of age. All the mixed emotions of this difficult pre-teen age are addressed: family problems, friendship problems, fitting in, finding your inner self, and so much more. The story follows Tommy as he finishes elementary school and faces the challenges of a summer without a best friend and with a family pulled apart at the seams. The authors' ability to mesh reality with fantasy is evident right from the first page when the reader is instantly pulled into a realm of escapism, all from Tommy’s creative imagination. Dialogue is engaging and used effectively to develop the characters’ personas and to carry the story forward. The difficulties Tommy faces are aptly described and the reader will instantly feel empathy for this young boy. Tommy stands like a hero as his world tumbles around him, much like the much-loved Harry Potter in his magical fantasy series of stories. Powerful and effective. Well done!